Autonomous Driving

With all this talk about Autonomous Cars, it’s easy to think that we’ll all be driving these vehicles by Christmas! However, the reality looks very different as it will be at least another 25 years before the majority of cars on our roads will be fully autonomous.
As you can see from our ‘Stages of Automation’ graphic, and our detailed breakdown to the right, the journey to fully autonomous cars will be a gradual one. We’re likely to be in 2025 before we start to see the first fully driverless cars, capable of driving hands free from door to door. It’s then going to take at least another 15 years before automated cars start to be seen as the ‘norm’ so we’ll be well into the 2040s and even then you’re still likely to be able to drive some models if you wish.
The key message though is that the introduction of this technology is just around the corner and for some of us is already delivering huge benefits in terms of safety and crash reduction. Just don’t forget that for the time being at least, you’re still the driver!





Today’s car is already a world apart from where the car was even 10 years ago. Many new cars are fitted with cameras and radars to monitor hazards ahead and automatically apply the brakes in case of a potential crash or guide the vehicle back into lane if the driver is not paying attention. However, the driver remains in full control.



2018 will be a landmark year. Cars will become a lot smarter with even more advanced driver comfort features and with regulations now permitting hands-off driving on motorways. The driver retains responsibility and will be expected to take-over control in case of unanticipated situations or system failures. For motorway driving, some cars will feature an ‘auto pilot’ function, automatically driving the vehicle and allowing hands to be taken off the wheel for around 3 minutes at a time.



Moving towards full autonomy now. On defined segments of motorway the car is able to take complete control allowing the driver to disengage from driving completely and to do other, unrelated and more time consuming tasks such as reading a book. With a full sensor pack including radars, cameras and laser scanners the vehicle is able to build up a complete picture of the immediate road and traffic environment and to use lateral steering adjustments and longitudinal braking and acceleration inputs to navigate safely within it.



By 2025, it is envisaged that the car will be able to drive itself, fully hands free from door to door. This will include the whole range of typical driving environments in cities and in urban environments as well as main arterial routes and with the ability to negotiate traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts, where the road infrastructure permits.


‘Over 90% of deaths and injuries on our roads today involve human error. Automated vehicles never get tired or distracted so it’s easy to see why many experts believe that this technology holds the key to a crash free future’


Thatcham Research
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Berks, RG19 4NR, UK
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