Ups and downs: More challenges for autonomous car development

The automotive world will continue developing in 2016, especially with news that one of its defining trends is still in a state of flux. 

The pursuit of safer and more fuel efficient vehicles is a challenge for automotive manufacturers.

The pursuit of safer and more fuel efficient vehicles is a challenge that's involving more than just established automotive brands, especially as self-driving cars appear to be the answer to many of the industry's current problems. 

However, it remains difficult for fleet managers to get a concrete idea of how these trends will affect their roles in the coming years. While the technology is making progress, and elements of it have already surfaced in new cars, the complicated web of rigorous testing procedures and regulatory pressures could be holding these systems back. 

Ford ramps up autonomous development

While pared down versions of self-driving cars are already available in some vehicles through systems such as autonomous emergency braking, fully fledged examples are unlikely to be in the hands of consumers for a few more years. 

The technology is rapidly coming together, however. Google doubled its fleet of these vehicles over 2015 and, more recently, Ford expanded its testing regime. 

Ford will launch its first major autonomous testing program on public roads, with the company announcing that a fleet of its vehicles will hit Californian streets. Not only are these vehicles self-driving, they're green cars too, as Ford Fusion Hybrids will lead the charge.

Ford president and CEO Mark Fields stated the company is reaching beyond its usual resources to achieve these goals, noting the initiative will bridge the gap between the tech world and the automotive one. 

"We're attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people's lives better by changing the way the world moves," he explained. 

Californian streets are the scene for autonomous testing. Californian streets are the scene for autonomous testing.

Possible roadblock for autonomous vehicles

Overcoming the technological boundaries is not the only challenge for manufacturers investing the development of self-driving cars. In most places around the world, transport and vehicle regulations aren't prepared for self-driving vehicles, a fact which could prompt a rapid revision of the road rules as the technology develops. 

The state of California set a notable precedent for these cars recently, with draft legislation stating that autonomous vehicles must have a driver behind the wheel. As many of the leading developers of these cars test on these streets, the decision is likely to have a significant impact on their future evolution.