There’s much excitement about the future of the self-driving car. We've heard endless discussions about Google's version ever since it was first launched in 2010, and now Apple has jumped on the bandwagon, too.
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In fact, earlier this year Ford chief executive Mark Fields predicted that autonomous vehicles would be on the road by the end of the decade. The fact that more than 10 automakers showcased driverless cars at this year’s Consumer Electronic in Las Vegas would indicate there's a strong chance he'll be proved right.
It all sounds exciting, but the truth is that these vehicles are still stuck firmly in the realms of research. For the average car-owner in the UK, the time when their manual car will be easily traded in for an autonomous version is still a long way off.
That's because although there are plans for future cars to make driving safer and help society evolve, there just isn't enough security in place yet. In the advent of what we’ll see with autonomous cars in years to come, we need to adjust our focus to the connected car and the future of navigation.
Within our automobiles, we can already get real-time traffic information, make phone calls and listen to our iPods. But a change that will bring overall improved driving for a more convenient car, as well as decreasing fatalities in auto accidents, will be connecting cars to each other. This means they will be able to share internet access with other devices both inside and outside the vehicle.
With increased road safety comes a downside – connected cars are at greater risk of being hacked into. But we shouldn't panic, because automakers will undoubtedly put measures in place to absolve these issues. Tesla, for example, has already begun developing an over-the-air patch that will automatically fix these kinds of issues. The security concerns are not enough of a reason to hold back on connecting cars to each other.
The industry has fuelled mapping and navigation systems with a lot of funding recently. Last month, Toyota secured a deal with Telenav to install a dashboard navigation system into 2016 models. Similarly, German automakers have purchased Nokia’s Here maps application for £1.9bn. These purchases emphasise the auto industry's constant strive to become more efficient.
With the advancements we’ve seen in connected car and navigation systems, it’s very clear that we are heading in the right direction. But before the road is entirely paved for self-driving cars, we've got to develop the technology and security measures to ensure vehicles can communicate with each other without serious risk.