Semi-autonomous Driving on the Increase, Reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders


Every year, over 1.5 million motorists in the UK are choosing cars that feature semi-autonomous safety systems. At least, that’s what recent research, carried out by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) appears to show.

In collaboration with JATO Dynamics, SMMT found that over half of all new cars registered last year made use of self-activating collision warning systems. Collision warning systems use radar and small cameras fitted to the front of the vehicle to monitor the space ahead of the car, feeding back information to the driver. The driver is then provided greater judgement as to the proximity of obstacles or other road users and is given early warning about potential collisions and thus the opportunity to prevent accidents. Nearly 60% of all vehicles purchased featured the technology – whether as standard or added extra – compared with less than 7% in 2010.

In fact, the prevalence of various intelligent technologies has increased significantly. Safety-enhancing features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control (ACC) and blind spot monitoring systems are now highly favoured amongst domestic drivers.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

Working with collision warning systems, autonomous emergency braking applies the brakes automatically should the driver fail to react to a potential collision. The system is intended to avoid crashes, or at least reduce the effects of collisions on involved parties. AEB was fitted to just under 40% of all new cars last year, equating to in excess of 1 million vehicles.

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Adaptive cruise control, also called autonomous cruise control, adjusts vehicle speed according to its proximity to the vehicle ahead. Its overarching objective is to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles so as to mitigate the risk of collision. Almost a third of all new cars featured ACC last year, compared with less than 10% in 2010.

Blind Spot Monitoring

The blind spot monitoring systems comprise sensor and camera devices fitted below a vehicle’s wing mirrors, as well as its rear. Information is fed back to the driver via visual, audio or vibration signals. Alerts are made when the vehicle approaches obstacles or other cars that otherwise might not be seen by the driver. Examples of their use include in cases where the driver is back out of a parking space and is unable to see traffic approaching from the sides.

While semi-autonomous driving cannot yet replace the perceptions or capabilities of a human driver, these technologies have been found to significantly reduces the risk of serious, even fatal, accidents. Research by SMMT last year found that over 2,500 lives could be saved by 2030 if driverless technology were to be rolled out, in addition to the prevention of over 25,00 collisions. It’s no wonder then, that manufacturers and consumers alike are opting for these safer vehicles over standards models. Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of SMMT insisted that semi-autonomous and autonomous driving will change the way we live – vastly improving safety and reducing congestion and emissions. He added that the innovation and products emerging as a result will contribute billions to the economy – as much as £51 billion if recent predictions are correct.

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