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Will We Still Be Driving Our Own Cars in the Future? - Sponsored by ClickOnTyres UK

For better or for worse, we are living in an increasingly automated world. Many manufacturing jobs have now been replaced by robots. You don’t need to vacuum your carpets anymore, because the Roomba can do that for you. And, like some other cities around the world, the mass transit trains here in Vancouver don’t require a driver, because they’re effectively being controlled by a central computer… and it’s been like that since way back in 1986.

Why is it, then, that when we step behind the steering wheel of a car that we still have to drive the bloody thing ourselves? This may sound like a silly question, but people just a few decades back would have been flabbergasted by the smartphones that we carry around with us each and every day. And the automotive industry does appear to be moving in the direction of self-driving cars, one facet at a time.

Automatic transmissions and, more recently, continuously variable transmissions have eliminated the need for the driver to change gears himself. Cruise control keeps the car at a certain speed and more advanced “adaptive” cruise control keeps an eye on the distance to the car in front, braking if needed to prevent a collision. And then you’ve got technology like lane assist, which warns you when you start to sway into a neighboring lane. All of this technology is slowly, but surely taking over the human element of driving a car.

And it’s not like all of this fancy technology is only found in high-end vehicles either. Even a more entry-level commuter car like the Ford Focus can be equipped with automated park assist, parallel parking the vehicle into a spot without any real input from the driver.

Sure, as the tech gets better, we may place more trust in these systems to handle the driving for us at slower speeds where the danger is reduced, but what about when you place that trust in the vehicle at full race speed? That’s exactly what the blokes at Top Gear did way back in 2011 with the BMW 330i.

Aided with some high-precision GPS, the Bimmer was able to make its way around the Top Gear test track at full speed, braking, accelerating and steering as needed. And as Jeremy Clarkson says in that clip, BMW could have installed the same technology in something even faster, like an M3. Throw on some premium Vredestein tires from Click on Tyres, fill up on some petrol, and let the car do the rest. Who needs the Stig?

The trip around the test track shows that self-driving cars can not only handle the mundane task of getting people to and from the office, but these systems can really take vehicles to their utter limits, just like a professional driver. BMW has continued to develop more advanced autonomous technology, getting to the point where the car can do even more advanced maneuvers like high-speed controlled drifting, all on its own with no driver input whatsoever.

The fact of the matter is that not only do self-driving cars already exist, but they’re already driving around on the road. The Google self-driving cars are legal in Nevada and California. What’s more, GM vice president Alan Taub says that autonomous driving will be a standard feature in cars by the year 2020. That’s only a few years away.

No, we don’t have mainstream flying cars just yet, but it seems like it won’t be long before you can tell Siri, Cortana or Google Now integrated into your grocery getter to drive you to the supermarket and park itself when it gets there.

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