We examine the relationships between contemporary progress in on‐road vehicle automation and its coherence with an envisioned “autopia” (automobile utopia) whereby the vehicle operation task is removed from all direct human control.
The progressive automation of on‐road vehicles toward a completely driverless state is determined by the integration of technological advances into the private automobile market; improvements in transportation infrastructure and systems efficiencies; and the vision of future driving as a crash‐free enterprise. While there are many challenges to address with respect to automated vehicles concerning the remaining driver role, a considerable amount of technology is already present in vehicles and is advancing rapidly.
A multidisciplinary team of experts met to discuss the most critical challenges in the changing role of the driver, and associated safety issues, during the transitional phase of vehicle automation where human drivers continue to have an important but truncated role in monitoring and supervising vehicle operations.
The group endorsed that vehicle automation is an important application of information technology, not only because of its impact on transportation efficiency, but also because road transport is a life critical system in which failures result in deaths and injuries. Five critical challenges were identified: driver independence and mobility, driver acceptance and trust, failure management, third-party testing, and political support.
Vehicle automation is not technical innovation alone, but is a social as much as a technological revolution consisting of both attendant costs and concomitant benefits.