What does the future of driving look like? 

The world we live in is continually evolving and slowly but surely everything is becoming more digital. Depending on your age, you will remember when mobile phones first came out, or the first desktop computer, boy how things have changed! Driving has also evolved over the years, whether it’s the discussions around diesel or petrol engines, black boxes in cars, electric or hybrid cars and now automated driving. Even the way we buy insurance has evolved from buying insurance from a broker face to face, to price comparison sites and now through apps, so what’s next? We’ve written a blog highlighting what we think the future of driving could look like.

How many electric cars are in the UK?

Electric cars are most definitely becoming more popular in the UK and it’s clear to see. Whether this be at work, service stations or car parks, over the last year there has been a significant increase in the number of electric plug in points that have popped up around the country. It’s worth noting that there are two types of electric cars currently on the market, plug in hybrid and pure electric. The government have been supporting consumers to purchase the plug in hybrid cars by offering grants on some models. Data is showing that of these grant eligible vehicles the plug-in hybrid models continue to outnumber the battery electric cars on the road at the end of 2017.

The most popular plug-in car on the roads is the Mitsubishi Outlander. In total there were over 32,000 plug-in hybrid versions of the vehicle on the road at the end of 2017. As for pure electric cars, the most popular is the Nissan Leaf with over 19,500 on the road at the end of 2017.

Records from the DVLA show that in total at the end of 2017 there were 126,857 cars and vans licenced in the UK that have been eligible for the Government plug-in grant scheme. These numbers are rising as this is 9% higher than the previous quarter and 52% higher than the number of these vehicles on the road a year earlier.

When will driverless cars be on the roads in the UK?

As I’m sure you’re all aware the government are working towards banning both diesel and petrol cars by 2040. The Green Alliance are now urging for this to be brought forward a decade to 2030 in order to close the gap on the UK’s climate targets. Whilst we can see that sales of electric vehicles sold in the UK are increasing, this is still behind other countries in Europe. So by bringing forward the deadline to 2030 would hopefully encourage people to purchase electric vehicles sooner rather than later.

Following the disaster that happened in Arizona in March 2018 with a pedestrian being killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle, people are feeling very nervous about the prospect of automated vehicles being on the roads. Subsequently, Uber have postponed their testing in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Even though the programme has had a turbulent couple of months, car makers and government officials are still backing the different projects happening globally and it’s thought driverless cars could be on UK roads as soon as 2021! So what does this mean for UK drivers? Well, it’s rumoured that the current driving test and driving license are set to change, with British motorists maybe having to take a new driving test in order to have an automated vehicle. It’s even rumoured that new laws will be passed to prevent people reading, sleeping or watching films whist driving (if that’s the right word) an automated car.

What is Autonomous Emergency breaking?

Autonomous Emergency Breaking (AEB) is being regarded as the biggest safety technology breakthrough since the introduction of the seatbelt. So what is it? Essentially AEB is a safety system that is built into cars which monitors the traffic and will alert a driver if there is the potential for a collision to occur. If the driver does not respond to the potential danger quick enough then AEB kicks in applying the breaks to avoid any collisions.

How does this technology work? Currently, this differs depending on the make and model of the car. AEB uses Lidar (light detection and radar) system or camera sensors, or both to help detect and prevent potential accidents. If and when AEB detects a potential accident, this is when it alerts the driver, if the driver does not respond, AEB determines the necessary brake force to apply. Currently AEB systems have different operating speed ranges and are set to identify different types of hazards. For example some systems are more effective in low speed areas, whilst others are more equipped for motorway driving.

As you can imagine this technology is constantly adapting and improving with the aim to have one AEB system that can prevent collisions altogether, hence why the technology is so revolutionary. Currently, 21% of new vehicles are fitted with AEB as standard, with 27% offering AEB systems as optional extras. So how much does this technology cost? Every manufacture will differ, but some manufacturers offer AEB as an optional extra bundled into a safety package, at around £1,300. In other cases a simple ‘city’ version of the system can cost around £200. It’s worth noting that each manufacturer might have different terminology for AEB, so it worth asking the question to a brand representative.

Interestingly, AEB has been a mandatory requirement on newly registered Heavy Goods Vehicles over 7.5 tonnes since 2015 and steps are now being taken to ensure that AEB technology is standard on all new vehicles, so watch this space.

What are clean air zones?

As I’m sure we’ve all realised from our daily commutes, the roads are getting busier and busier due the number of cars on the road at any one time. During January to March 2017 959,000 vehicles were registered for the first time, the highest figure ever recorded. At the end of March 2017, there were 37.5 million vehicles registered for use on the road in Great Britain. So it’s no wonder the roads are feeling chock-a-block.

You might remember that in 2015 the government released plans to improve the air quality in five major cities throughout the UK with the introduction of clean air zones. This all sounds wonderful, but what actually is a clean air zone? A clean air zone is quite simply an area in which local authorities have put measures in place to improve the air quality, by trying to reduce the amount of traffic. Initially it was thought that these clean air zones would only apply to larger vehicles such as HGVs, buses and taxis. However, this is now being widened to non-compliant higher emission private vehicles, so private motorists may also be affected. The government hopes that by tackling pollution at a regional level, it will have positive impact nationally. There are two types of clean air zones that you need to know about, charging and non-charging zones.

What is a non-charging clean air zone? Quite simply this is a city that is focusing on improving air quality in other ways, not by charging for vehicle usage. So what are they doing? Approaches can include traffic flow management to reduce emissions, rerouting traffic or retrofitting certain vehicles. Whereas in a charging zone drivers will be charged a fee to enter the area if their car fails to meet the required Euro emissions standards.

There are five cities that have been chosen to represent this scheme and should have produced their initial propositions already as this was due in March 2018. These cities are Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. If you want to know more about what is happening in these cities, it’s best to contact the local council or look on the council’s websites.

What is pay as you go insurance?

Most people aren’t particularly keen on purchasing insurance, so any quicker, cost effective solutions are warmly welcomed. Pay as you go insurance has been introduced for those people that rarely use their cars. In order to benefit from this type of insurance you would only be using your car a couple of times a month. For example, someone who lives in London that more often than not uses public transport would benefit from this insurance offering.

One of the main benefits to this type of insurance is the flexibility it offers as you can buy insurance policies by the hour or the day. There are also other types of flexible insurance on the market for borrowing or sharing a friend’s car.

The important thing to remember about pay as you go insurance policies is that they are for people that don’t use their car frequently and therefore an annual policy is not cost effective. It’s always worth comparing the different insurance policies available to make sure you are getting the best deal.

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