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Autonomous driving. What’s on offer right now?

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You can’t control everything. Your hair first thing in the morning is a good reminder of that.

Some days, you may be relieved simply to find your bed is still in the same place. Or that you were smart enough to get the right Car insurance before you actually needed it. And while fully autonomous driving is still a few years away, you can take advantage of new semi-autonomous features right now. So what are they? And how do you benefit?

The trusty Car team at Budget Direct Insurance has the answers. We take a look at semi-automated functions that point the way to the future of autonomous driving. 

1) Park Assist

A huge help for those who fear the act of slotting their car into the tiny slots that we call parking spaces. Park Assist is arguably the first semi-autonomous driving technology that has captured the public’s imagination. Park Assist has been around for about a decade now, and can now be found in quite a lot of new car models, like the Toyota Camry or Corolla 2016.

Park Assist uses a series of sensors and cameras to scan your surroundings and find a suitable parking spot that is able to fit your car. It then notifies you and you can then put it to work. The most common Park Assist performs parallel parking maneuvers, doing the steering work, requiring you to maintain control of the pedals. More advanced versions, however, can also do perpendicular parking, and in time to come you will even be able to park your car without being in it, controlling it via your smart key fob. Can’t wait!

2) Active Cruise Control

Cruise control has been available in cars for decades now, and is a big boon for long motorway journeys where you can set your desired cruising speed and then take your foot off the pedals (still paying attention to the road of course!).

In recent years, active cruise control has taken one step further. While standard cruise control requires you to intervene should there be a sudden decrease in speed or need to stop, active cruise control typically makes use of radar to detect traffic and obstacles in front of the car. Active cruise control is able to adjust your speed accordingly, minimising any need for driver intervention. You can even set your desired following distance from the car in front and the system will adapt accordingly. Two car lengths or more please!

3) Collision Avoidance Detection 

There are various Collision Avoidance systems available today, these are designed to prevent accidents at both high and slow speeds. In essence, these systems make use of cameras, lasers and radars to sense an impeding collision, and will proceed to warn the driver to take action. Should none be forthcoming, the system will intervene and apply the brakes as appropriate. 

More sophisticated Collision Avoidance systems can work at low speeds to detect pedestrians and cyclists, and perform the same actions of intervention. This makes them ideal for urban city driving where it can sometimes be hard for humans to detect oncoming obstacles in time. Especially in blind spots. 

4) Drive Assist 

Nearly the full banana here, Drive Assist systems offer virtual autonomous driving, albeit still restricted. Drive Assist incorporates various other systems, like active cruise control and lane keeping assist, and is able to pilot the car on its own in certain conditions.

In Singapore, two cars are currently available with such systems. Volvo’s S90 executive sedan offers its Pilot Assist system, which is able to steer, accelerate and brake all by itself up to a speed of 130km/h. It does require the driver to place his hands on the steering wheel at all times. Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class also has a Drive Pilot system that works similarly and can help you change lanes as well. 

These systems form the building blocks of a future where autonomous driving may be the norm. It’s exciting to think how far we have come. 

In our next post, we take a look at a future where autonomous driving may be available for everyone. 

For more car reviews and motoring tips, look out for regular posts in this series.

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