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Are Self-Driving Cars Heading in the Right Direction?

For most of us, the idea of self-driving cars was always the stuff of Saturday morning science fiction shows on the TV. The possibility that we could climb into a vehicle and it would safely drive us to our destination without the need for human guidance would have seemed like something that would not happen in our lifetimes.

However, technology moves much more rapidly than any of us could imagine. The global autonomous vehicle market is now estimated to be worth an astonishing $54 billion annually. Motor manufacturer Audi alone has committed to spending $16 billion on self-driving cars by 2023.

Are Autonomous Vehicles Safe?

Autonomous vehicles are now very much on the agenda for the tech and automotive sectors. However, as with many emerging technologies, there is a degree of public scepticism about the merits of the idea. After all, can a car driven by technology ever be as safe as one driven by a human?

The simple answer is yes. In fact, a shift to autonomous vehicles could radically reduce road traffic accidents making our roads safer for car users, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

Take the most common type of accident that most of us are likely to experience. The bump from behind because one driver is not paying full attention. Accidents like this will become things of the past with self-driving cars. Computers do not get tired or distracted whilst changing the channel on the radio. Instead, they will maintain a safe distance automatically, and brake when the vehicle ahead does.

And as technology develops, so will safety.

Yet the public still doesn’t quite trust technology to keep them safe. In fact, according to one survey, 61% of adults state that they would not feel comfortable riding in a self-driving car.

Do You Believe You Are a Good Driver?

Maybe this is ultimately less about safety and more about the very human desire to feel in control. This is because most people tend to overestimate their own skills when it comes to driving. This is due to something that psychologists term illusory superiority.

This means that people think that they are better at something than they actually are. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to driving. Repeated surveys show that the vast majority of drivers describe themselves as being ‘above average’ when it comes to driving ability.

In fact, some of those surveys show that when it comes to safety, 93% of drivers believe that they are in the “top 50%”.

If drivers all believe that they are amongst the safest on the roads, then it is not surprising that they consider themselves better equipped than a set of computer algorithms to keep them safe.

An Unstoppable Technology

However, despite this degree of public scepticism, there does appear to be something unstoppable about the move toward autonomous vehicles.

Researchers estimate that by 2035, about 90% of cars on the road will be self-driving, and by 2050 almost all road vehicles will be driverless. If all the cars become self-driving, then studies predict that there will be a 90% decrease in accidents, 80% fewer emissions, and a 40% decrease in congestion and traffic.

These wins are too important to dismiss. With an increasing population and growing concern about the environment, it seems that self-driving cars really could be part of the solution for future transportation.

Autonomous Vehicle Day

To help promote the benefits of this new technology, 31 May has now been formally designated as Autonomous Vehicle Day. This day is designed to raise awareness of the merits of autonomous vehicles and to engage the public in a wider debate about this emergent technology.

It is also clear that this is not the only shift in the motor manufacturing industry.

We are already witnessing a significant move to electric vehicles. The assumption is that this is how the new breed of self-driving cars will be powered.

Whilst the automotive industry has had a difficult period in recent years, one area where a downward trend has been bucked is in the sale of battery-powered cars. Over the last year, sales of electric vehicles in the UK have almost trebled to just under 110,000.

This new industry and the associated supply chain is potentially good news for UK business. Here at ENL Group we already use cutting-edge plastic injection moulding technology to produce the battery housings that this new technology requires.

We are also currently working on a development project specifically focused on supporting the manufacture of EV charging units. With the UK having a new target to increase the number of charge points from around 30,000 to 300,000 by the end of the decade, this is clearly a sector with the potential for rapid growth, bringing benefits to supply chains around the country.

As the shift to electric vehicles continues and accelerates with the development of self-driving technologies, manufacturing businesses like ours have an important role to play in ensuring that those new sectors have reliable access to the lightweight, precision-engineered, high-quality components that they need.

About ENL Group

ENL Group is based in Portsmouth, UK and Veľké Kostoľany, Slovakia. Established in 1958, we have been servicing UK-based and European companies for decades. Working with a secure supply chain, ENL provides quality components for quality-driven customers – with full certification for all of our products and quality checking at every stage.

Operating 24/7, we design, manufacture and deliver critical components for our customers across the UK and Europe.

Contact Us for more information about ENL and how we can help your business.