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Deaths will not stop driverless car developments

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The idea of cars driving themselves was once the stuff of science fiction but now that scenario is quickly becoming a reality. Tesla, BMW and other high profile automotive companies are working towards creating the perfect driverless car, but teething problems mean it could yet be a long process.

A Tesla driving in ‘autopilot’ mode crashed in March. The car sped up instead of braking when faced with a concrete barrier and the driver was killed. It’s not the only incident of its kind either. Despite this though, car and tech companies are still coming together in the search for workable driverless technologies.

Above: one of Google's prototype driverless cars

BMW are one of the household names leading the charge: “I think BMW has been on the way to becoming a tech company for many years already. We have just opened our autonomous driving campus in a suburb of Munich and we have space there for 2000 engineers. They are mostly going to be software engineers and artificial intelligence engineers and so on”, Reinhart Stoll, of BMW, told the BBC this week.

So with BMW backing artificial intelligence technologies and Tesla persistent in defending their mishaps, how long will it be until driverless cars become a normal fixture on British roads? We already have some indications…

Firstly, the end of 2018 is scheduled to see driverless cars tested on British roads. Secondly, Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, advised the BBC that “fully driverless cars” could be in use as soon as 2021.

So, driverless cars aren’t so far away. Their arrival though could spark a new kind of competition for car companies. Traditional car manufacturers such as BMW, Ford and Mercedes are already dipping their toes into the driverless car pond, but they’re not alone. Tech companies like Google are also currently testing driverless vehicles and this could mean a new sort of competition for these global businesses.

As they prepare to duke it out and divide up the profits, other companies are cooperating to make their way in a new and exciting market. Startup driverless tech company, Nuro, recently announced their partnership with US grocery giant, Kroger. The two intend to offer their companies same-day delivery options on their online grocery shops.

The initial designs of the delivery vehicle itself don’t even include space for a driver, instead two pods open on arrival to offer the customer their shopping. With massive funding being poured into the joint venture this is sure to be another front on which we see driverless technology making marked advances.

Despite setbacks, and even fatalities, there seems to be a massive corporate appetite for driverless technologies. It’s these bountiful funding streams that will prove instrumental in bringing driverless cars to market, and it seems accidents and fatalities have done little to stop the advance of these technologies. While that raises some moral questions it also means we are likely to see driverless cars sooner rather than later. Watch this space. 

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