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Self-driving cars: the state of affairs

Zelfrijdende auto's: stand van zaken

In the course of a few years, the self-driving car will have to become a reality. But what is there that’s already within the realm of possibility today?

That drivers still remain incredibly wary of self-driving cars was reconfirmed during the vote for the VAB Family Car of the Year. At the time, 78 families were asked if they were prepared to hand the wheel completely over to a driver assistance system. The conclusion was crystal clear: a mere 4% of respondents had full confidence in 100% self-driving cars.

Unjustly, according to mobility expert and author of the book The Mobility Revolution, Lukas Neckermann. ‘Who do you trust most to drive a car? 1.2 million people die in traffic every year. And who is responsible for all those lethal accidents? That’s us, the human race: 90% of lethal accidents are attributable to human error. And should you trust the other person in traffic, who is in the meantime taking a drink of something, just quickly grabbing a bite to eat and checking his or her smartphone?’

What is there that’s already within the realm of possibility today?

Technologically speaking, it is currently already perfectly possible to have self-driving cars operating on certain roads today (read: roads with clear road signs and markings). Cars that are already quite a long ways ahead in the area of autonomous driving include the Tesla Model S, Mercedes E Class and the Volvo S90/V90.

Tesla was the first, equipping its Model S (and the now the latest Model X cross-over as well) with the so-called Autopilot, capable of autonomous driving and lane changes by using cameras and sensors.

The new Mercedes E Class too comes equipped with a self-driving function, in this case called Drive Pilot, which has capacities identical to that of the Tesla system. However, the law seriously limits autonomous cars. ‘The E Class is also designed to be able to change lanes automatically. For the time being, however, this function has not been activated, because in the majority of European countries, to include Belgium, its use is still not permitted’, Mercedes-Benz Press Relations Manager Christophe Vloebergh says.

Just like Tesla and Mercedes, Volvo now also offers a semi-automated driving system. The new S90 saloon and the V90 estate car version come equipped as standard with Pilot Assist, which allows the S90/V90 to drive autonomously, on the condition that there are clear road markings present. And in addition - just as is the case for Tesla and Mercedes for that matter - there is still one more key condition: the driver must keep his or hands on the wheel. So for the time being, the driver is still in charge.

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