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The robots are coming… and they’re cheaper than you’d think

 

There are endless articles devoted to driverless cars and which manufacturer is closest to going commercial with their model.

With stories of fatal crashes during testing, uncertainty over regulation and an innate fear of technology we’re not quite in control of, having your own self-driven car seems a long way off.

What you may not realise is that they’re a lot closer to being on our streets that you might imagine – in fact, you may even be driving a car which is largely autonomous already.

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Last year Honda announced a model available in the US is already capable of driving autonomously and costs as little as US$20,400.

What’s in a name?

Many models in the Australian market offer a variety of autonomous features – or what are generically referred to as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Broadly speaking these include:

  • blind spot monitoring,
  • adaptive cruise control,
  • following distance warning,
  • lane keep assist,
  • lane departure warning,
  • self-parking,
  • adaptive headlights,
  • fatigue warning, and
  • traffic-jam assist

But in an effort to market these features as unique and proprietary for a competitive advantage, some manufacturers create their own names. Mazda for example calls this suite of ADAS “i-Activsense” and Volvo’s brand is “IntelliSafe”.

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Models which carry some or all of these features as optional extras include Australia’s most popular brands: Nissan, Ford, BMW, Volvo, Honda, Jeep, Holden, Mazda, Audi, VW, Toyota, Subaru and Mercedes Benz.

What does no driver cost?

Far from being the big-ticket item it once was, the creeping advancement of ADAS means that you won’t need to pay $100,000 for a top-of-the-range Tesla to own a driverless car.

With Google, Apple and other technology companies making serious plays in the space, along with traditional manufacturers, competition will lead to rapid development and competitive pricing.

Optional ADAS packages available in the market now add between $1500-$3,000 to the sticker price of a car and a fully automated car is estimated to add between $7,000-$10,000 by around 2025, dropping to $3,000 by 2035.

When will I be able to buy a fully autonomous vehicle?

While the technology is essentially available now for autonomous vehicles, there are still so many regulatory hoops manufacturers will have to jump through that a fully driverless car is unlikely to hit roads commercially anywhere in the world before 2020 according to IHS Automotive, which published a report forecasting 600,000 sales, growing to 21 million sales globally by 2035.

Even then, would you buy one?

Paul Higgins is the Director of HelloCars.