The world of driverless vehicles is an exciting place that makes the seemingly impossible a reality. Fierce competition means manufacturers are trying to create the most innovative autonomous vehicles, and some recent releases are seriously impressive.
GEN.TRAVEL – an incredible concept car by Volkswagen
In October, Volkswagen unveiled a fully autonomous electric car called Gen.Travel. The vehicle allows passengers to safely get a good night’s kip on a 6.5-foot horizontal bed! Or create a workspace with a 4 seat conference configuration. There are also add-ons to the car including installation of augmented reality to keep the kids entertained on long drives.
There’s no steering wheel or controls available for a human driver meaning there’s no override option. The car has complete control from the beginning to the end of your journey.
The design, has a myriad of small details to level-up your experience including:
- a panoramic windscreen,
- mood lighting,
- windows that offer an exceptional view of the outside world no matter where the passenger is sitting, and
- windows in the ceiling if you’re laying down and fancy doing a bit of star-gazing.
And it’s not just the interior that’s been given thought down to the tiniest detail – “For maximum comfort, the GEN.TRAVEL has the active suspension eABC (electric Active Body Control) that calculates vertical and lateral movements such as acceleration, braking, or cornering ahead of time, and optimizes the driving style and trajectory accordingly,” says the team behind the vehicle. “Artificial intelligence (AI) and platooning – fully autonomous driving in convoys – are used to further increase the range for long-distance journeys.”
Gen.Travel is a concept car that Volkswagen say has been designed with research in mind. “The car’s modular interior concept makes it a flexible, sustainable Mobility-as-a-Service alternative to short-haul flights. As a research vehicle, the purpose of the Gen.Travel is to test the concept and new functionalities for customer response. Based on the study results, individual features may later be transferred to series vehicles,” says the Volkswagen Group.
The great driverless vehicle race
Renault, BMW, Rolls Royce, and Google are among the companies that have released concept self-driving cars recently. They all boast a spacious and comfortable interiors and a stress-free journey.
So, when are we likely to see cars like this on the road? Well, not for a while yet. Although the government is desperate to get driverless vehicles on the road, it seems there’s some questions over when it’ll happen.
Building self-driving vehicles ain’t easy
“Cruise, Waymo, Toyota and Honda all said they would launch fully self-driving cars by 2020. Progress has been made, but not on the scale anticipated,” notes a 2022 article by The Guardian, and it turns out there are a number of factors that are contributing to the delays.
Firstly, it turns out automated cars are actually quite hard to make. “The last 10% is really difficult,” explains Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research. “That’s when you’ve got, you know, a cow standing in the middle of the road that doesn’t want to move.”
There’s also the issue of “edge cases” such as a dog running into the road or a fallen tree causing a driver to have to mount a kerb to get by. These types of scenarios are difficult for a vehicle that relies on machine-learning algorithms because they don’t happen all that often. So how can the car be expected to learn how to respond safely?
Melanie Mitchell, computer scientist and professor of complexity at the Santa Fe Institute explains, “if every car was a self-driving car, and the roads were all mapped perfectly, and there were no pedestrians around, then self-driving cars would be very reliable and trustworthy, it’s just that there’s this whole ecosystem of humans and other cars driven by humans that AI just doesn’t have the intelligence yet to deal with.”
For now, it seems we can expect more concept cars to be released and blow us away with their innovation and sleek designs. But it’ll a while before we’re kicking back and relaxing with some augmented reality while our magic car gets us safely from A to B.