Forecasting the Driver/Vehicle Relationship

by Gary Uftring
Uftring Auto Group

The auto and tech industries continue to push each other into brand-new, cutting-edge markets.

I have had the privilege of watching the automobile industry evolve in front of my eyes for over 50 years. As innovations in safety and technology have advanced, the relationship between the driver and his or her vehicle has also become more connected.

Gone are the days of simply expecting your car to get you where you are going. We now depend on our cars to keep us and our families safe—no matter what happens on the road. We expect to be comfortable and connected to the personal technology we use every day. It is exciting to see the auto and tech industries push each other into brand-new, cutting-edge markets.

The Future is Coming
The very apparent future of the driver/vehicle relationship rests in autonomous vehicles. Imagine traveling to work every morning without ever looking at the road, or telling your car to pick up your groceries without you. These scenarios sound less and less like something out of a science fiction story, and more like reality with each passing year.

How soon will we be living in a driver-less world? During his talk at the World Government Summit 2017, Elon Musk, cofounder and CEO of Tesla Inc., predicted that almost all new cars will be self-driving within 10 years. “Getting in a car will be like getting in an elevator,” he adds. “You just tell it where you want to go, and it takes you there with extreme levels of safety… That will be normal.”

More conservatively, McKinsey & Company has predicted: “A progressive scenario would see fully autonomous cars accounting for up to 15 percent of passenger vehicles sold worldwide in 2030.”

Of course, the future of vehicular autonomy relies on more than the ongoing development of the automobile industry. Our driving infrastructure as a whole has been designed and maintained for human drivers from the start. Soon we will begin to see more and more changes to what has become so familiar on our roads.

As auto engineers continue to develop smarter sensors and more complex camera systems, highway engineers will implement complementary technologies and regulations to allow for mixed company: human drivers and driverless vehicles. This could include newly developed pavement, paint and signage; narrow traffic lanes; and continually advanced vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.

What’s Already Here
What is really exciting, in the here and now, are the safety and efficiency technologies that are currently available in so many makes and models. Widely available options like parking assist, front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, front automatic braking, lane keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert have already redefined vehicle safety. And new advancements are being released every year.

If you want to be amazed by what is already available, pay attention to the electric car. The new 2017 Chevrolet Volt is a gas-electric hybrid that allows up to 53 miles of driving before ever using a drop of gas. Things get truly remarkable with the 100-percent electric models. The 2017 Nissan Leaf uses no gas at all and has a range of up to 107 miles on a single charge. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is also 100-percent electric and offers an incredible range of up to 238 miles per charge. Electric/hybrid vehicles are also playing a part in the roadway infrastructure evolution, with more and more charging stations popping up globally.

There is no question that the automobile industry is changing. In fact, it started a long time ago and is advancing at an incredible rate. How long will a complete transition take? What will our highways look like? What will the next generation consider normal? Only time will tell, and I am excited to be along for the ride. iBi

Founded by Gary Uftring in 1982, Uftring Auto Group serves customers throughout central Illinois, with dealerships in Peoria, East Peoria, Washington and Pekin. For more information, visit uftringautogroup.com.

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