Massive changes are coming to the UK’s roads.

The automotive industry, along with the public sector and education sector, has been dragging its heels in terms of making the most of advances in digital technology. Why? Well, there are several factors at play, but one of the main reasons is that the automotive industry has been hugely profitable for a long time. This profitability has mean that embracing change has not been a top priority. After all, why change a winning formula?

However, several large companies (Google, Uber, Tesla) have disrupted the automotive sector of late, forcing incumbent automakers to rethink their future plans. We’ve all seen what the emergence of Uber has done to the taxi industry – it is the beginning of a transportation revolution as significant as the Model T Ford replacing the horse and carriage. In 20 years’ time, drivers will look back and wonder why we didn’t realise how backwards we were.

Driverless cars, 5G motorways and the death of diesel are three significant developments that are set to alter the dynamic of Britain’s roads over the next few years. As such, we’ve rounded up these and other changes to look at what the future of motoring in the UK really holds.

The death of diesel

Diesel’s days are numbered. The government is aiming for 80% of vehicles on the road to be zero emissions by 2050.

April 2017 saw a 27.3% drop off in new diesel car registrations, so it seems the push to demonise diesel car ownership is working. With scrappage schemes and city centre toxicity charges both in the pipeline, we can expect the proportion of diesels on the road to decrease steadily.

The Liberal Democrats are pushing for an outright ban of diesel cars by 2025. This is relatively pointless as a measure to tackle pollution unless it applies to heavy goods and public vehicles as well. However, it shows how fashionable the idea of getting rid of diesel has become among politicians.

Impact on UK Motorists: As it becomes more expensive to run a diesel car, and drivers have good incentives to scrap pre-euro 4 models for greener alternatives, it seems inevitable that diesel cars will slowly fade away into history. It’s unlikely to happen by 2025 though.

Worryingly, a large proportion of Britain’s car industry is subsidised by diesel sales. A fall in diesel vehicle sales could well accelerate the recent talk of job losses within the car industry.

Smart fuel pumps

Denmark-based a2i Systems uses artificial intelligence to change the fuel price at the pumps in real time. This technology is coming to the UK later this year, with one supermarket already in advanced talks about implementing it. Prices in the UK already change frequently. It’s common for pump prices to increase over busy times like weekends, for example, but currently most stations do this manually.

With the a2i system, pump prices will change based on who is filling up. Loyal customers looking for deals may see the price go down, while those driving expensive cars may see the price tick up.

At PetrolPrices.com, we anticipate seeing a supermarket combine smart pumps with its loyalty scheme. This could, for example, result in greater discounts at the pumps for customers who buy goods from the supermarket.

Impact on UK Motorists: Real-time dynamic pricing on fuel is inevitable. It will be arriving in the UK sooner rather than later. Smart pump pricing will both benefit drivers and frustrate them in equal measure. However, the logic behind it means that if you are smart about when you buy fuel, you could save more money each time you fill up. Just be sure to avoid filling up in peak demand periods, when prices will be at their highest.

Electric vehicles

Globally, there are almost 1. 5 million electric cars in use, compared with 1 billion combustion engine-powered vehicles. Even though electric car sales are growing ten times faster than cars powered by traditional fuels, it will take years to achieve anywhere near 50% of all cars on the roads being electric. Some experts predict that the UK will not be fully electric until 2075, while others feel that hydrogen cell power and other fuels will emerge to replace electric cars. Many see electric cars as a stepping stone rather than the end state.

Tesla is leading the way with electric cars and now every car manufacturer offers at least one electric model. However, they’re still seen as expensive and not yet as good as a traditionally fuelled car. The limitation on range, combined with rapid advances in battery technology, means the secondary electric car market is non-existent. This is keeping adoption in the marketplace low, as only new electric cars are bought.

 

Impact on UK Motorists: We believe that electric will stay a niche rather than a mainstream car market in the UK for the next five years. There needs to be a greater level of affordability, where second-hand electric cars with ranges of 400 miles per charge can be bought for less than £10,000. The availability of charging points and the speed of charge points also need to be resolved before mass adoption can take place. Tesla is looking at covering the entire outside of its cars in solar cells, to increase range and power the cars as they drive. 

Connected cars

Seen by many as the prelude to “driverless cars” (we’ll get onto that later), a “connected car” relies on a computer system to perform most functions, reducing the actions required from the driver. Connected cars enable a host of digital services and media companies like Google and Facebook are keen to be inside the operating systems, so that they can provide services directly to drivers and passengers.

Take Tantalum, for example. Tantalum is building technology that turns the car itself into a digital service. You can fill up at a fuel pump and the car will make the payment for you as you drive off.

These cars can include internet access and can communicate with other “connected” devices. They have the potential to limit accidents by talking to other cars. In 95% of all road accidents, human error is the leading cause. It’s thought connected cars could reduce worldwide fatalities by 30%.

Many new car models are already connected. Some newer cars come with an app, enabling the driver to communicate with the car. They can even unlock it while hundreds of miles away.

Impact on UK Motorists: Connected cars are going to be a revolution for motorists, not only in terms of the services provided but also the reduction in the rate of accidents. UK motorists will find the range of new products and services overwhelming in the next few years. It won’t take long before people will think they can’t live without them – much like mobile phones.   

Driver-less cars

A driverless, or automated, car is exactly as you imagine – it’s a car that can drive itself. They are operated by a powerful computer that follows a map of the roads and reads thousands of different things at once, in the same way the human brain does when we drive. Driverless cars use sensors to detect where road obstacles are in order to avoid collisions and prevent accidents.

Some cars are already semi-autonomous. Tesla’s range of cars can drive on some motorways in a driver-less way. Experts are suggesting they could be on UK motorways as early as 2019, although this may seem ambitious to the more sceptical among us.

The cars are already being trialled in some states across America. Nevada is a key state for driverless trials, largely because the road system is simple and has fewer cars. The first trial in the UK occurred recently, when a group of passengers were driven around London in a driverless bus.

 

Impact on UK Motorists:  Experts suggest that driverless cars will kill the need to own a car. The predict that by 2050 no one will own their own car anymore, as they will simply get into a driverless vehicle and tell it where they want to go. This type of vision of the future may scare many people, but if you consider the amount of free time made available by not needing to drive, if the cost is low then the benefits could be significant.

 

5G motorways

The Labour Party manifesto pledged to bring 5G (the unreleased super-fast mobile network) to all motorways and major roads around Britain by 2019. This coincides with the country’s goal of being an “early adopter” for autonomous vehicles. The internet access would allow the cars to stay connected to their map system, as well as other cars, whilst moving along.

The current standard of internet connection is insufficient to enable connected vehicles to function fully. 5G would change this. It would also allow those with connected and driver-less cars to spend journeys watching films or working. A Google study found that the average commuter could gain an extra hour every day if he/she didn’t need to drive.

Impact on UK Motorists: 5G would mean vastly improved internet access on motorways for passengers, as well as facilitating driverless cars. However, the cost to invest in and deliver a 5G network on the main road system would be hard to justify without rolling out 5G across the rest of the UK at the same time.

 

New crimes (car hacking)

Many people are concerned by the security threats that all this new car technology will bring to Britain. Year upon year, cars are becoming more reliant on computer technology. The Society of Motor Manufacturers says that 1.5 million motorists a year now leave showrooms with cars reliant on computers.

The concern is that the security systems aren’t yet matching this advancement. However, it seems car manufacturers are starting to take notice of the threat. Vehicle manufacturers are investing billions of pounds to make cars safer and more intelligent, and are constantly investing in security patches to prevent cars from being hacked.

Sadly not all manufacturers are keeping pace. Jeep was famously caught out recently when hackers demonstrated that its new cars could be taken over remotely, including switching the engine off and opening the doors from many miles away.

Impact on UK Motorists: Motorists could be held to ransom by hackers and scammers unless there are serious advances on current security systems. This is perhaps the single greatest threat to the future of motoring. As cyber-crime is now the fastest growing type of crime globally, the risk is that hacking cars could become a scarily common new trend.

 

Are you excited about the future of motoring? Do you think the future of motoring will be better or worse than today? Let us know in the comments section below.

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