Self Driving Cars a.k.a. the Totally Cool Future of Autonomous Cars

Brian England, Wed, Aug 19, 2015

It seems that articles about self-driving cars (autonomous cars) have been all over the press lately.  What you may not realize is that you don’t have to wait another five to ten years to experience what it’s like to sit behind the steering wheel and have the car drive itself.  In fact, my wife Jen, who is not extravagant when it comes to cars, recently decided upon a 2016 Acura RDX.

Jen_in_her_self-driving_2016_Acura_RDX

She upgraded from a 2000 Acura TL, one of only two cars she’s had in the last 32 years — the 2000 Acura and a 1983 Chevy Caprice Wagon.  Both of those cars had over 100,000 miles on them, and they were in good condition when she upgraded to a new vehicle.  (Of course, as you would expect, they were very well cared for, safe and reliable, helped along by regular preventive maintenance from the staff at BA Auto Care!) So, this year, it was my wife Jen’s turn to purchase a new car.  We change our cars like clockwork, every 15 years. Waiting 15 years between car purchases means we see giant leaps forward in technology with each new car. My turn to switch cars comes in 2019, and who knows what kind of great technological advances will be available by then.  Already a lot more 2016 cars have an advanced electronic package that includes adaptive cruise control, lane deviation warning, and lane deviation assist. 

I got to try out Jen’s new car for the first time recently on our annual family beach vacation to North Carolina. As this was primarily a highway trip, I got to try out the unique safety features. First I switched on the cruise control and it locked in at 65 mph.  What’s great about adaptive cruise control is that it adjusts its own speed to adapt to the car in front of it.  Whether the car ahead slows down or someone cuts in front, the cruise control adjusted itself, even to the point of applying the brakes.

Next I tried the lane control system.  It would beep if I started to drift out of the lane, beating my wife to the punch, well almost! (I think the car and Jen are in competition on who can warn me first.) So naturally, my next step was to put an end to this competition and select steering assist. With steering assist on, instead of drifting out of the lane, the car gently steers itself back into the center of the lane!

“This is so cool,” I said. “Look, no hands and no feet,” I said lifting my hands from the steering wheel and my foot from the accelerator.  Well, it was only a matter of seconds before a message popped up that said “steering required”.

These amazing features plus a warning system that keeps an eye on the “blind spots” make this a very safe vehicle. It looks like it won’t be very long before cars will be available that totally drive themselves. Test cars have driven millions of miles, across Europe and the U.S. without the need of a driver! This is good news because these systems are going to save thousands of lives!

Volvo has always led the pack when it comes to introducing safety features. Remarkably, data collected by insurance companies has shown a whopping 30% reduction in accidents among the owners of these advanced Volvo cars. Now that’s something that deserves a close look.

Google and Tesla have also invested in these “smart” cars”, as have the other American car manufactures, Detroit has opened a mini city to test driverless vehicles. Check out this recent “On Point” public radio program that delves into all the issues related to these vehicles.

It won’t be long before car accidents will be a thing of past. Driverless cars will park themselves in shopping centers. Driverless pods will replace taxis…

Think how much these technological advances will help the handicapped and the elderly be more mobile. I am sure it will lead to a more integrated transportation system that will blend all modes of transportation.

What an exciting time in the automotive world!

Thinking of pushing out your car’s lifespan to 15 years?  Go ahead and make that next preventive maintenance appointment!

About Brian England

 

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care) got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in the northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD, and a few years later, started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. A big believer in preventive auto maintenance, Brian's philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of adhering to a regular maintenance plan.