OEMs looking to be the first to implement commercial applications of autonomous vehicles could steal a substantial march on competitors, a UK conference heard today.

Speaking at just-auto‘s second Industry Intelligence Seminar in the UK city of Swindon, just-auto automotive director, Dave Leggett, told delegates any move to autonomous production could reap rewards.

“If someone is first on this, there could be big first mover advantages,” he said. “There will be a drift towards it, perhaps by stealth and more driver assistance features fitted as standard, for example, driver lane warning departure or parking assistance.

Google has developed an autonomous car and it is impressive – it is very much a vision of vehicles far ahead. You will have things like platooning to make driving easier. Potentially, you will not need to take a driving test.

“[But] the full, autonomous vehicle is some way off – public acceptance will [take] time. What if there is an accident? What could be the legal issues?”

Leggett also highlighted changing demographics that will come more into play as the population generally lives for longer and has altered transport requirements as a result with a greying population or one that is disabled potentially viewing autonomous driving as a practical solution.

“Smart, in-car connectivity will increase across the world,” said Leggett. “There is a challenge for engineers to manage this inflow of information to the driver. The challenge is to ease the load on the driver and make the driving experience better.

“That has been the name of the game for the past 100 years, but the industry is clearly at a point of change and transition.”