Vehicle Manufacturing

Autonomous Vehicles: Is the self-driving car around the corner?

Autonomous Vehicles: Is the self-driving car around the corner? 1000 600 Anthony Anthony

Having a beautiful Tesla Model S at our Windsor showroom has captured the imaginations of our customers, web visitors, attendees at this month’s Thames Valley Expo, and not least: all here at WVL! Excitement was palpable at the new technology in the vehicle, and having this glimpse of the future inspired us to research the topic of Autonomous Vehicles and see what the future holds for drivers… how safe will autonomous vehicles be, is the technology really there yet, or are we trying to run before we can walk?

“Every car in production will now have the capability for full autonomy by 2018”


What is an Autonomous Vehicle?

Used widely these days to describe ‘driverless’ or ‘self-driving’ cars, technically, the term means a vehicle able to sense its environment and navigate without human input – now a coveted goal in the motor industry.

We’re all familiar with the early stages of autonomy: cruise control has been around for some time, and now with lane departure warning and auto parking there’s a stepwise transfer of control to onboard computers. Each new development chalks up a point of difference for manufacturers trying to sell vehicles in a hugely competitive marketplace.

Manufacturers, regulators and insurers all recognise the importance of defining the degrees of autonomy, which are based on the degree of driver attentiveness rather than vehicle capability. Put simply: feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off. They are more formally defined by SAE International, a US automotive standardisation body, definitions now adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and which range from complete driver control to full autonomy as follows:

Level 0 Automated system has no vehicle control, but may issue warnings
Level 1 Function-specific autonomy – Driver must be ready to take control at any time. Automated system may include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Parking Assistance with automated steering, and Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II
Level 3 Limited self-driving autonomy – Within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks, but must still be prepared to take control when needed. e.g. Audi’s piloted driving concept in the A7
Level 4 Fully self-driving autonomy – As level 3, but no driver attention is required. Outside the limited environment the vehicle must be able to enter a safe fallback mode – i.e. park the car – if the driver does not retake control. e.g. Google car, Volvo ‘Drive Me’
Level 5 Fully autonomous in every driving scenario – Other than setting the destination and starting the system, no human intervention is required. The automatic system can drive to any location where it is legal to drive and make its own decisions

Read on to see how these systems are being implemented, the journey to this point, and how the road ahead looks.

Safety First

Tesla claim they could have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2018, and Volvo has announced its Drive Me London programme for next year, but neither of these vanguards have had an unblemished journey so far.

In April of this year, an Uber driverless Volvo carrying two engineers was hit by a vehicle which failed to give way at an intersection in Arizona. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but Uber suspended its driverless fleets in Arizona, California and Florida until the investigation was complete – the Volvo was shown not to have malfunctioned. Confidence is still strong in this partnership, with Volvo announcing a $300m (£226m) investment with Uber.

In May 2016 the driver of a Tesla Model S with ‘Autopilot’ engaged sadly became the first fatality in a self-driving car when its sensors were unable to discern the bright side of an 18-wheel truck & trailer crossing the highway in front of it. The Tesla’s windscreen impacted with the bottom of the trailer and the driver was killed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators found that the driver had been watching a movie at the time, with seven seconds to take action, and that Tesla were not to blame. Their investigation also showed that crash rates for Tesla vehicles dropped by 40% after its Autosteer technology was installed. Tesla also pointed out that this was one fatality in 130 million customer miles driven, compared with one fatality in every 94 million miles driven among all US vehicles.

Google’s vehicles have clocked-up over 2m autonomous miles… but they haven’t gone unscathed with around two dozen recorded accidents. Nevertheless, just one – a collision with a bus – was found to be the fault of the self-driving car. Google recently gave data that 1.2 million people die in car accidents each year… with 94% resulting from human error.

The argument for lowering those statistics is strong: McKinsey & Company estimated that widespread use of autonomous vehicles could “eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the United States, prevent up to US$190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives.”

Software Giants

Whilst it’s logical for the major manufacturers to add their automation step-by-step, leaders in the software & technology field, Google and Apple, are going all-out for full automation.

Pioneers in driverless vehicles, Google’s self-driving programme began back in 2009 using Toyota’s Prius, and they’ve recently consolidated their work under the new spin-off brand ‘Waymo’. For 2017, and now in partnership with Fiat Chrysler, they’re introducing Chrysler’s Pacifica Minivan to their fleet, equipped with the Waymo hardware/software suite for full autonomy.

Much rumour and speculation has surrounded Apple and whether it will be designing its own autonomous vehicle. An announcement by their director of product integrity (formerly a Ford Motor executive) last December gave little insight, but their project ‘Titan’ now appears to be a software platform for autonomous driving, like Waymo, to be licenced to manufacturers.

Ford has invested $1bn in artificial intelligence company Argo AI to produce the software for its next generation of self-driving cars – indeed, they claim they’ll be mass producing cars without a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals in just four years.

Clearly no manufacturer wants to be left behind, and indeed all these additional brands have projects underway, too: BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Landrover, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, PSA (Peugeot-Citroen-DS), Renault-Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and VW group.

Safety in numbers

Autonomous driving is in some respects a misnomer – these vehicles won’t be completely independent as data will pass from vehicle to vehicle forewarning about upcoming hazards and providing information about each other’s status and position on the road.

With upgraded road infrastructure, where traffic signals and status are also communicated to vehicles in advance, the roads will surely be a safer place. Knock-ons will include shortened journey times as faster speeds will be safer, increasing traffic flow since vehicles will be able to drive safely closer together, and easing congestion as a result.

The full benefits of such a system won’t be realised immediately though: The Department for Transport (DfT) predict at the point 1 in 4 cars are driverless, it will cause delays to traffic flow and only once they’ve reached 50-75% of cars will congestion reduce – but potentially by as much as 40%.

“There’s a prize to be had in terms of swifter, safer journeys, but the transition to that world will be challenging.”

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation

Data Protection

All this, however, requires the sharing of data and the collaboration of  vehicle manufacturers and software giants to talk a common language. Not just on successes and failures during research and development between themselves and regulators, but also on the road, between vehicles and the road infrastructure. It’s this real-time data flow which is an area of significant concern in terms of data security.

The threat of hacking is very real: in 2015 a Jeep Cherokee was paralysed on the highway by a remote hacker gaining access via the vehicle’s internet connection. Chrysler recalled 1.4 million cars as a result and as more vehicle systems become online the potential for causing harm becomes more significant.

USB ports, for example, are easy points for gaining access, and driverless cars used as taxis would mean every passenger could be considered a threat. To date, only Tesla has talked of implementing trusted code signed with cryptographic keys to prevent such overrides. Consider a ransomware attack on Uber, with passengers locked in cars until a ransom was paid for their release. Or terrorist-controlled unmanned vehicles carrying explosives.

One of the original hackers Charlie Miller, formerly of the NSA, then security researcher at Uber, is now at a Chinese competitor, Didi – a move he made due to being able to speak more freely about the real threat of car hacking and the security problems it poses:

“Autonomous vehicles are at the apex of all the terrible things that can go wrong… Cars are already insecure, and you’re adding a bunch of sensors and computers that are controlling them… If a bad guy gets control of that, it’s going to be even worse.”

Charlie Miller, formerly at Uber, now at Didi.

Insurance Assurance

Insurance companies will also need to see vehicle driving data to help determine liability in the event of an accident. They’re proposing access to data covering 30 seconds prior, to 15 seconds after any incident, including vehicle location, driver mode, whether the motorist was in the driver’s seat and had a seatbelt on.

Understandably, drivers will need reassurance that they won’t be blamed in the event of a vehicle malfunction. Major insurers including AXA and Direct Line are collaborating on a new framework for the next generation of motoring, with an option being to extend to cover product liability i.e. if an autopilot fault causes an accident. Volvo however are the first manufacturer to announce they will accept the liability if one of its autonomous cars crashes when driving itself.

A report by consulting firm KPMG predicts the number of car accidents to go down 80% by 2040, the increasing degrees of automation changing the ‘risk profile’ of the car.

“The car becomes safer and safer as it moves towards fully-autonomous driving.”

Jerry Albright, KPMG

Long term, there may be little or no need for motor insurance due to the safety improvements made possible, but the interim could be a time of much confusion, insurance-wise.

To pave the way, recent discussions between the DfT and the BVRLA have confirmed that they’ll use public sector fleets as a test bed for setting out policy for insurance claims. Clear definitions are required to determine whether the driver, the insurer or the manufacturer are liable; whether the vehicle was under manual or autonomous control, and even whether necessary software updates have been applied or modifications made. Transport Minister Chris Grayling has set this for debate later this year in The Modern Transport Bill.

“To properly pave the way for these technologies, we must create an environment where developers can “bring their products to market in a safe way that protects consumers.”

Chris Grayling

We should expect to see changes to The Highway Code, Driving Test and licencing in order to keep pace with the changing road environment. Revisions have already been announced for this coming December to account for satnavs and auto parking.

UK Driving Force

The UK Government has established the University of Cambridge Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) with the DfT to help ensure that the UK remains a world leader in developing and testing connected and autonomous vehicles.

They are also providing funding for an autonomous car cyber security group with suggestions of star ratings for security levels, similar to EuroNCAP’s crash safety ratings.

Driverless car projects are already planned or in progress in a number of UK cities:

The £8m+ Project GATEway will involve 10mph 4-seater driverless shuttle buses around pedestrian public areas using a self-learning system called ‘Selenium’ by UK startup Oxbotica. This system can be added, along with the required cameras and sensors, to a standard vehicle.

“Driverless cars will make our roads safer and help an ageing population remain independent.”

Paul Newman, professor at Oxford University and co-founder of Oxbotica

Milton Keynes
Oxbotica’s technology was also at work as of October 2016 in 2-seater pod cars in a 1km loop around Milton Keynes’ railway station.

Autonomous cars will be reaching speeds of up to 70mph on the roads of Greater Manchester next year as part of a three year research study on roads between Stockport Railway Station and Manchester Airport. There will be a standby driver in each of the three vehicles to take control if required.

Following a pilot programme in Sweden this year, Volvo will begin real-world autonomous vehicle testing in the UK next year under a programme called Drive Me London. The first trials will involve semi-autonomous XC90s, but by 2018 they will be replaced by 100 fully autonomous cars with selected families trying their ‘Unsupervised Driving’ mode on city streets.

‘Transport as a Service’

Clean energy thought-leader, Tony Seba, anticipates that by 2021, autonomous electric vehicles operating under a ‘Transport as a Service’ model (essentially Uber, without a driver) will be 4-10 times cheaper per mile than buying a similar model, and 2-4 times cheaper than running an existing owned vehicle. And considering that cars aren’t used 96% of the time, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will we still be choosing to have our own private vehicle – especially when initial purchase costs are likely to be high?

“In peak time, 30 per cent of city driving is people looking for parking. That goes away if you have cars that drive themselves and drop you off and go find another passenger.”

Sergey Brin, Google

The Road Ahead

The near future could be a confusing time for motorists: whilst we approach full automation, the car will take some of the strain of driving, whilst the motorist’s hands will be hovering over the wheel, and eyes still on the road. How appealing this technology will be to motorists, and whether they’re prepared to pay for it, remains to be seen.

The roadmap ahead as blogged by AutoExpress looks like the following:

2016 Assisted Driving – e.g. AEB and lane departure technology
2018 ‘Hands-off’ self-driving – for motorways, with the driver expected to remain responsible and take control if required, though able to remove hands from the steering wheels for 3 minutes at a time
2021 Automated Driving – with the next decade will come full autonomy in defined sections of motorway where the car can take full control
2025 Fully autonomous cars – it’s predicted that in ten years our cars will be able to drive us door to door without us needing to touch the wheel, with onboard technology to communicate with other vehicles as well as the road infrastructure. There may even be vehicles with no driver controls

“In 2019 you will be able to buy a car with an autopilot system where you can take your hands off the wheel for up to three minutes. But that will only work on a motorway.”

Matthew Avery, Thatcham

For this technology to develop a system able to interpret its surrounding filled with obstructions, hazards and other vehicles as quickly as a human brain, not to mention clearer road markings and weather-proofing to the sensors.

Come the Revolution

It’s perhaps no surprise that with its Silicon Valley and warm dry weather, California is paving the way in the development race. Momentously, as of 13th April 2017, Google, Apple (using modified Lexus Hybrids) and Tesla along with 27 other brands including Ford, GM, VW and BMW have been granted permission by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to allow them to test their technology on the roads. This is a landmark ruling.

“It’s a race towards a brave new world, it’ll be life changing.”

Jayne Waydo, head of systems engineering at Waymo (Google)

“The technology itself will perform a lot better than we perform now as humans… We needed to provide a clear path to completely driverless vehicles, because of the safety benefits.”

Bernard Soriano, deputy director of the Department of Motor Vehicles


Crucially, manufacturers are required to ‘self certify’ that their vehicles are safe to operate without a human driver. How they actually prove this hasn’t yet been determined and is considered “a very big leap” by Ryan Call, law professor at University of Washington.

The recent California ruling is a big step towards autonomy. Beverly Hill has already approved plans for a driverless car programme to replace the public transport system there, and in accord it’s likely that public transport systems worldwide will see driverless vehicles made mainstream before private vehicles. This has the double positive of making public transport cheaper, and potentially reducing the number of cars on the road too.

Pros and Cons

The benefits are clear to see. In 2015 a blind man ‘drove’ unaccompanied on a public road in Austin, Texas, for the first time thanks to a Google car, and a study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that six out ten people with limited mobility will benefit from an autonomous car. Of those who agreed their lives would be improved, almost half said they would be able to pursue hobbies outside their home or go out to places like restaurants more often. A further 39% said they would have better access to healthcare as a result of an autonomous car.

Further benefits include:

  • A significant reduction in traffic collision, the resultant injuries, and motor insurance costs
  • major increases to traffic flow, higher speed limits, smoother rides
  • automated mass transit would reduce the need for vehicle – and thus roads and parking spaces – in cities
  • enhanced mobility for children, the elderly, disabled people, and the poor
  • relieving travellers of the chores of driving and navigation
  • reduced fuel consumption and emissions
  • reduced car theft due to the vehicles’ self-awareness
  • more comfortable cabins, with the removal of steering wheel and controls
  • plus being able to pick up passengers or go for maintenance without a driver present.

Potential downsides include:

  • Software reliability
  • breaches of vehicle software security, plus the security of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications networks, with potential for terrorism.
  • susceptibility of sensing equipment to adverse weather or deliberate interference
  • digital mapping will need resolution upgrading in many areas
  • current road infrastructure will need changes for systems to work optimally
  • drivers risk becoming ‘complacent’ – the conclusion reached by a House Of Commons report showed drivers in autonomous cars react on average 6x slower when having to intervene in emergency braking situations compared to driving manually
  • the loss of driving-related jobs across a wide range of industries, from haulage to insurance. That said, new industries will emerge around providing ‘Transport as a Service’, or TaaS, creating new employment opportunities, and success in the field here in the UK could create 320,000 jobs.

Eyes Forward

Progress is happening fast: autonomous trucks are already working hard in ports, mines and terminals for short repetitive trips, and with governments already onboard with city-based vehicle trials and significant investment. Latest opinion, however, may suggest we’re trying to run before we can walk.

AutoExpress have just reported back from a conference on the subject just last week, organised by the Financial Times. The leader of Nissan’s research centre in Silicon Valley, Maarten Sierhuis, who once wrote software for NASA, is a strong proponent for still having the human element.

Their Leaf prototype uses their Seamless Autonomous Mobility system and should it encounter an unknown obstacle, Sierrhuis’ vision entails it beaming images back to base for a human to examine and advise on a course of action which can be sent to other vehicles in the area. Despite them having autonomous prototypes in testing since 2015, and promising a fully autonomous car in its line-up by 2020, Sierhuis’ salient message was “It’ll be impossible to have autonomous vehicles driving around without them ever needing help.”

Around the Corner?

Waymo Autonomous CarWill this futuristic vision become reality? According to Tesla, it’s just around the corner, recently claiming we’re just two years away from sleeping in the car.

Advancing technology is not only big business, it’s unavoidable, so change will certainly come… particularly when its benefits are so far reaching in terms of safety, and mobility for those who currently struggle. But will the coming revolution see us still as a 1+ car-per-family society, or will the savings of switching to a TaaS, super-Uber system to pick us up and drop us off cause an even greater shift than anticipated?

The motoring world is moving forward into new territory, a journey which will bring much change to the industry, to our lifestyles, and no doubt to the way we view, use and rely on our motor vehicles.  Whether or not you’re comfortable with handing control to a computer, ultimately, with greater levels of safety being a key driver behind this change, our roads are set to be a far safer place, and we can all agree that’s a destination worth reaching.
Tesla Model S for lease

Tread with Care: proposed change to minimum tyre tread depth

Tread with Care: proposed change to minimum tyre tread depth 1000 600 Anthony Anthony

Calls by the tyre industry for increasing the minimum tread depth to 3mm, or even 4mm, have been met with strong resistance – surprisingly, by Michelin. They argue that their tyres are made to guarantee effectiveness right down to 1.6mm, and that premature replacement is a waste of money, harmful to the environment and potentially reduces its overall safety performance.

Keeping track

The legal limit remains at 1.6mm across the central 75% of the tyre (a threshold set by motoring experts some 25 years ago), with a recommendation by RoSPA in 2005 to replace tyres at 3mm due to their diminished performance particularly in wet conditions – as the depth decreases stopping distance in wet weather will increase.

Recent research reported by tyre retailer KwikFit has shown that 73% of our blue light services (police, fire & ambulance) change their vehicles’ tyres at a tread depth between 2.6 to 3mm, some 10% in fact change them as early as 3.1 to 4mm. This is of course encouraging, understanding how greater tread depth can reduce stopping distances in wet conditions – and KwikFit’s view was that motorists should follow their example.

Michelin however, are challenging this move with their own new research: they are in favour of not replacing tyres at 3mm, but rather waiting until they are close to the 1.6mm limit. Their study has shown no link between tread depths of 1.6mm and accident rate, and perhaps surprisingly that a premium tyre worn to this limit can perform as well as a brand new lower-performing tyre. Changing a tyre early therefore doesn’t guarantee safety and they are advising against premature replacement.

All new tyres are not equal, nor do they wear or perform in service at the same levels. Differences in casing design, tread pattern, materials and rubber compounds all affect wear and performance. Lower quality tyres which may perform well and meet standards when new, in tests, can slide 30% in performance when tread reduces to below 3 or 4mm. Higher quality tyres can perform well through to the legal limit.

They are promoting wider testing of tyres as a guide to in-life performance, rather than going by a blanket rule which may waste tyres with many more safe miles left in them.

The cost of change

Michelin commissioned Ernst & Young to investigate consumer costs and they determined that replacement at 3mm would cost EU drivers almost an extra €7bn in purchase costs and fuel consumption. It would also require an extra 128 million tyres in Europe per year, with 9m tonnes of additional CO2 released.

Furthermore, new tyres with greater tread depth are less fuel efficient than those with lower depth: ‘rolling resistance’ reduces with depth, so fuel economy will improve with wear.

They also found that a worn tyre is capable of stopping more quickly than a new tyre in dry conditions – in fact becoming safer with wear.

All Weather

Critically, when we think of tyre safety, we think of driving – and stopping – in wet weather. Michelin’s tests showed that some worn tyres can perform as well as new tyres in wet conditions.

The original MIRA (Motoring Industry Research Association) data from 2003 showed that wet stopping distances start to increase dramatically at tread depths of below 3mm. At the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, the wet stopping distance increased by 36.8% on asphalt vs 44.6% on concrete. Tyres with a 3mm tread had a 25 per cent better stopping performance than those at 1.6mm in the wet.

stopping distance vs tread depth

Michelin’s stand is one of balancing the tyre’s performance in all conditions, not just the wet, and their data clearly supports extended wear beyond the 3mm limit can be beneficial in terms of cost, fuel consumption, and safety on dry roads. That said, given the levels of rainfall we can see here in the UK, and how wet conditions are better handled with more tread depth, whether this view will stand its ground remains to be seen.

“I just can’t agree with Michelin’s stance. I’ve conducted exhaustive tests, measuring cars’ braking distances in the wet on tyres with 8, 3, and 1.6mm tread depths. The 1.6mm tyres took much longer to stop… Admittedly I wasn’t using Michelin tyres – but they were from a premium rival.”

Kim Adams, Auto Express products editor

Losing Grip

Only 1 in 8 drivers check their tyre tread depths regularly according to a KwikFit survey, showing that the majority of points issued in 2015 were to drivers with tread levels below 1.6mm. Road safety charity TyreSafe’s research found that one third of all UK tyres were illegal – either below 1.6mm tread or with other defects. Bristol’s tyres fared worse with over 46% found to be illegal, with Greater London faring best at 13.8%.

“Well maintained tyres significantly reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.”

Stuart Jackson, TyreSafe chairman

N.B. This video is dated 2011, prior to Michelin’s recent study.


Until new guidelines are published, the 1.6mm minimum, and 3mm advisory limit will remain. The key point is to check your tyres regularly; not only is it one of the top three MOT fail items, risking 3 points and fine up to £10,000 is surely an incentive to keep a watch. The AA recommends checking more frequently when tread depth reaches 3mm, and consider replacing the tyre when it approaches 2mm. Always allow extra room for braking in wet conditions, and don’t forget to check your pressures too. Most importantly, maintaining your tyres could prevent you losing grip on the road surface or suffering a blowout – the consequences of either being potentially catastrophic.

Tyres are included with WVL’s Full Maintenance Packages!

No need to worry about the cost of replacement tyres when you lease your vehicle from WVL with a maintenance package – tyres are covered! Whilst it’s still your responsibility to monitor their wear and condition between scheduled services, the cost of replacement is fully included in the deal. Click here for details:

See our current lease deals here or call us on 01753 851561 for more information.


ULEZ, New Charges & Changes to Drive Air Pollution Down

ULEZ, New Charges & Changes to Drive Air Pollution Down 660 300 Anthony Anthony

Plans, legislation changes, and charges are stepping up a gear in London as Mayor Sadiq Kahn has revealed new proposals for the ongoing improvement to air quality and emissions standards across London. The Toxin Charge already in force is to be replaced on 8th April 2019, by the ULEZ – Ultra Low Emissions Zone – a clean air zone monitored 24/7 across the capital’s existing Congestion Charge Zone.

This new charge will affect a far wider range of vehicles than the current restrictions – for example, two-wheel vehicles are to be included – and vehicles not meeting the ULEZ standards will be charged £12.50 per day to drive into the Zone.

ULEZ phase 1

The ULEZ standards are proposed as follows:
• Euro 3 for motorcycles & mopeds
• Euro 4 for petrol cars, vans & minibuses
• Euro 6 for diesel cars, vans & minibuses
• Euro VI for lorries, buses & coaches.

As a guide, nearly all petrol vehicles manufactured since 2005 will be ULEZ compliant; your V5C (vehicle registration document) will give information on your vehicle’s Euro emission standard.

Check your vehicle now on the TFL website: click here.

ULEZ – Phase 2

Restrictions will be tightened across a wider range of heavy vehicles from October 2020, and, as a further drive towards cleaner air in the capital, Kahn has announced that the ULEZ will be extended outwards as far as the North and South Circulars by October 25th, 2021.

ULEZ phase 2

Full details can be found here – including information on transition discounts for residents of the areas being incorporated.

The new measures are predicted to affect over 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries every day. Critics say it will be the final straw for small businesses. But for the 100,000+ Londoners who will no longer live in areas where the air they breathe exceeds the legal limits for pollution, it’s a vital move forward. Further data shows over 9,000 Londoners die prematurely each year as a direct result of air pollution, and that it creates a £3.7billion drain on London’s economy – there’s a clear and necessary drive towards cleaner air.

Drivers should note that the ULEZ charge will be in addition to the existing weekday Congestion Charge (7am – 6pm Monday to Friday; two-wheeled vehicles are not affected ) as well as the LEZ (Low Emission Zone) charge for heavy diesel vehicles.

Full details on the various charges applicable when driving in London can be found here.

Ban on New Petrol and Diesel Engines

Further acceleration to air quality improvements were announced this week as talks between Sadiq Kahn and a number of leaders from major cities across the UK focused on the government’s proposed 2040 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. They motion to bring the ban forward ten years to 2030.

It remains unclear whether this includes Hybrid engines too, but further details on this ‘Road to Zero’ initiative are due to be released soon.

“Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, providing support to deliver Clean Air Zones in cities and introducing a national vehicle renewal scheme will dramatically improve our air quality and our health.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

The Diesel Debate

Not surprisingly, there remains much confusion over the diesel/petrol debate in the aftermath of Dieselgate – but manufacturers are working hard to ensure modern diesel engines are as clean if not cleaner than petrol equivalents. This is certainly the case in terms of their lower CO2 emissions. The sector faces a perhaps unfairly accelerated decline, especially across Europe where tax hikes and clampdowns on diesel vehicles are gaining traction – but the greater fuel economy and pulling-power of diesel engines can’t be disputed.

Take Our Advice

If you’re looking for a new vehicle, come and talk to us about your requirements. With changing legislations, charges, and accessibility into London (and soon other city centres) choosing the right vehicle has never been more important, particularly when driving for business. Leasing is the future-proof solution – it makes the very best sense for minimising your emissions, as well as your outgoings – all with minimum commitment.

We can offer new and nearly-new vehicles available on a range of contracts from short-term to four-year deals, so call our team on 01753 851561 – we’ll help get you moving… and keep you moving!

For more background, read our previous post on The T-Charge, Toxin Taxes, and Diesel Engines.


The T-Charge, Toxin Taxes, and Diesel Engines

The T-Charge, Toxin Taxes, and Diesel Engines 660 300 Anthony Anthony

Hot on the heels of the new Crit’Air Emissions scheme for driving in Paris (see our recent blog post for details), and after news of elevated parking rates for diesel vehicles in some London Boroughs, the UK has taken recent vehicle emissions data and made plans to further penalise drivers of the most polluting vehicles during peak hours.

“The air in London is lethal and I will not stand by and do nothing.”

Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London

“Despite the hype in the media, we should keep in mind that the modern Euro6 Diesel engines with their Catalytic Converters, Diesel Particulate, AdBlue technology and attractively low CO2 are much cleaner than the old diesel engines and are not being targeted with the T-Charge.”

Peter Fletcher, Account Manager at WVL

In the turbulent wake of Dieselgate, the emissions scandal seeded by significant discrepancies in test-conditions emissions versus real-world-driving emissions, the UK has also received a ‘final warning’ from the European Commission for breaching air pollution limits. In one street in London, air pollution levels were measured at the annual limit in just the first week of 2017. And with 40,000 premature deaths caused each year from long-term exposure – over 9,000 of those in London at the last count – action is swiftly being taken.

Recent independent analyses have yielded data which turns the tables on the petrol vs diesel debate. Previously, the key marker was the amount of CO2 generated (a ‘greenhouse gas’ implicated in global warming). On that front, diesel burns more cleanly that petrol, emitting around 20% less CO2 per km than petrol, hence the government’s tax breaks to encourage the sales of diesel engines in 1998. In fact, back in 1990, diesels represented just 6.4% of the vehicles on the road; by 2015, every other vehicle was a diesel. The data, however, overlooked other serious pollutants and real-world analyses has shown diesels to produce 4x the levels of Nitrous Oxides (NOx) as petrol, and 22x the levels of sooty particulates. Policy is changing as a direct result – but not just for diesels, for older petrol engines too.

Emissions testing

The T-Charge

A ‘Toxicity Charge’ will come into force 23rd October, 2017 in London where drivers with pre-Euro4 diesel and petrol engines will face a £10 daily fee on top of the existing £11.50 Congestion Charge in order to drive in the that zone 7am–6pm weekdays; that’s £21.50 per day.

Use this checker to see if your vehicle will be affected:

This will be superseded in April 2019 when central London becomes an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) with daily charges ranging between £3–£12.50 dependent on your vehicle model’s emissions in a bid to reduce London’s NOx emissions by 50% by 2020. Diesel cars over four years old in 2019 and petrol cars over 13 years old will face the charge 24 hours a day, year-round (in addition to the existing Congestion Charge during weekday hours), in a bid to cut air pollution whilst buses, coaches and HGVs could face charges of £100 per day to operate in the ULEZ. Plans thereafter exist to extend the ULEZ to the North and South Circulars after 2021.

Sadiq Kahn and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayors of London and Paris respectively, are launching the ‘Cleaner Vehicle Checker’ website this autumn where independently assessed, real-world emissions data will be published. This will give consumers and fleet managers crucial information when considering a new vehicle in light of ULEZ fines and restrictions, and it’s hoped this new transparency will incentivise manufacturers to reduce their vehicles’ emissions long ahead of the EU ‘real-world driving emissions’ standards deadline in 2021.

“By having ‘on the road’ testing I believe we will help Londoners make an informed choice and incentivise manufacturers to build cleaner vehicles sooner. The toxicity of the air in London and many other big cities is an outrage and schemes of [this] type have the potential to make a massive difference to the quality of air we all breathe… [London] will have the toughest emissions standard of any world city.”

Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London

“Every motorist who uses the capital’s roads needs to be ready for some pretty big changes that are coming up as London acts to cut harmful emissions which will either hit drivers in the pocket or force them to rethink their choice of vehicle.”

Nick Lyes, RAC


Low Emission Zone signOther polluted cities across England will also face the new restrictions with Toxin Taxes up to £20 per day, or even bans for the heaviest polluters during peak times. These measures are planned for up to ten more town centres, another 25 more where commercial diesels will be the targets, along with increased parking fees in at least 15 towns and cities. The finer details are yet to be worked out, but Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom has suggested the rules for each location will be written on a case-by-case basis and will announce outline measures imminently.

What about Diesels?

Diesel engines are being hardest hit; there are 11.9 million on the road in the UK and a scrappage scheme has been suggested but remains in debate as the £2billion cost has been deemed too high. Nevertheless, Theresa May has said she is conscious of past governments encouraging people to buy diesel cars and that this would be taken into account in plans made, but it does remain likely that pre-September 2015 (Euro6) diesel cars will be devalued at resale as a result.

Diesel cars aren’t the only emitters of problem NOx and particulates – nearly a quarter comes from coal and other energy plants, and cargo ships too: fifteen of the largest pump out more oxides of Nitrogen and Sulphur than all the world’s cars combined. And even Electric vehicles with their heavier battery packs have been shown to wear their tyres faster and release more rubber-derived particulates.

Manufacturers are quick to point out that Diesel will still have a place, perhaps moreso in vehicles and developing countries, but given the R&D costs involved, those engines will likely render smaller consumer models as uneconomic purchases. That said, with the advances made already in achieving Euro6 standards, diesel is very much still in the running and manufacturers are standing by it.

“It’s a pity diesel got so much miscredit in the past two years, because we all desperately needed to achieve our goals. It can be a really clean engine, and the new diesels really are. And it can also be, and is, the most efficient combustion engine in terms of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. But I think social acceptance of the diesel is going down, and that the ban from city centres of diesels is bad for consumer confidence. So I see diesel penetration is going to decline.”

Karl-Thomas Newmann, Opel/Vauxhall

“You get high mileage, you get huge torque, but it will get more expensive and it will probably mean in the entry-level cars there will be a shift from diesel to gasoline. But it is still a great engine, and with the addition of after-treatment it will be very clean. Our Euro6 diesels are the best cars you can buy in the industry when it comes to emissions. Diesel is not at its end.”

Herbert Diess, Volkswagen

The Way Forward

Advances in technology are enabling engines to be made more efficient – both petrol and diesel, and with hybrid and all-electric vehicles becoming more mainstream and affordable, drivers have an array of options to consider when making a vehicle choice. Vehicle purchases are significant investments, and with technology moving so fast, it’s getting hard to future-proof that investment.

Now, more than ever, Leasing is the ideal option when considering a new vehicle as it affords you complete flexibility. Motoring doesn’t need to involve the long-term commitment of ownership: trying to select a model now which will still suit you – and not be hit with emissions taxes – in another ten years time.

WVL offer vehicle lease contracts from 1 month to 4 years. Call us on 01753 851561 to discuss the perfect vehicle for your requirements.

Information correct at the time of publication.

Autonomous Emergency Braking

AEB – safely the best innovation since the seat belt

AEB – safely the best innovation since the seat belt 660 300 Anthony Anthony

Buzzwords at the moment in the autotrade, and top of the savvy motorist’s wishlist, AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) is claimed to be the most significant development in car safety since the invention of the seatbelt. Read on to learn more about this remarkable new technology, its projected impacts, and the new award which every manufacturer now wants to win.

What is AEB?

AEB is a new technology using sensors, radar, lasers or cameras to detect objects ahead of the vehicle to help prevent collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians or hazards. It’s designed to alert the driver to an impending crash, and if required, to apply the brakes autonomously to bring the vehicle to a stop before impact.

Safety first and foremost

With the potential to save 1,100 lives and 122,860 casualties over the next ten years, according to Thatcham Research, this technology is not only here to stay, it could revolutionise motoring. In fact, Thatcham recommend that consumers and fleet operators should only consider new cars fitted with AEB as standard – it really is a game-changer.

How does it work?

autonomous emergency braking

  1. Detectors monitor the road ahead
  2. Distance to object is constantly calculated
  3. If the time-to-object falls below safe limits…
  4. …Audio/visual warnings try to alert the driver
  5. If warnings go unheeded, the vehicle will brake itself in order to stop before collision or minimise impact, depending on speed and conditions.

The different systems

There are a number of variants of the system currently in place, based on the speed of travel with different marques & models offering just one, or a combination of them:

Low Speed City – the system works at lower speeds, generally 20mph or less, to avoid or mitigate accidents such as one car running into the back of another in typical urban driving. Over three quarters of collisions occur in this speed range, with whiplash a common result. Sensitive to other vehicles’ reflectivity, pedestrians or other objects are unlikely to be detected.
Advanced Higher Speed System – using radar to scan further ahead enables the system to work at higher speeds and audio/visual warning systems may also be integrated.
Pedestrian Detection – aided by a camera, these systems can detect pedestrians and cyclists.

For a full list of which models carry which systems, see here.

WhatCar?’s new Safety Award

WhatCar Car Of The Year Safety Award 2016New for 2015, WhatCar? introduced the ‘Safety’ category to their much-respected Car Of The Year awards to reward manufacturers for their efforts in helping improve road safety. It’s also a reflection on how many of us are including safety features as a key factor when choosing a new vehicle.

WhatCar? appointed Thatcham Research to help with the judging. Experts at evaluating vehicles for safety, security and crash repairability, Thatcham are the UK’s only accredited Euro NCAP crash test centre.

They based their rankings on three main categories:
Protection: All must have a 5-star Euro NCAP rating;
Technology: AEB should be standard fit on at least one trim level across the range, and the finer points of the car’s features and innovations were assessed;
Availability: Safety shouldn’t come at a premium, and a weighting was applied to reward good value for money.

The Safety Award has fast become the ‘one to win’ – so how did the contenders fare in the 2016 line-up…

The 2016 Winners

1st place: Volvo XC90
2nd place: Honda Jazz
3rd place: Toyota Avensis

Our Pick

From a business/fleet perspective, this year’s Safety Award winners include a clear winner for us here at WVL: the fantastic Toyota Avensis. Packed with the very latest safety innovations – including AEB across the range and lane departure warning, it received high praise by WhatCar? for its very high level of protection at reasonable price. This fantastic vehicle is our first choice for the business motorist.

Plus, scoring a full 5 stars in the EuroNCAP ratings rivalling the Jaguar XF and EX, the Avensis is a real all-rounder in performance, style, value for money and safety.

“People who regularly drive long distances as part of their work are exposed a greater risk of being involved in an accident. Therefore, those who are responsible for choosing company or fleet cars need to ensure that, as well as being comfortable, economical and reliable, the cars being driven by their employees also provide high levels of safety.”

Thatcham Research

Try for yourself

WVL have Saloon and Estate Business Editions in stock now – perfect for your fleet – call 01753 851561 to book your test drive in one of the safest vehicles on the road!

Avensis Business Edition Touring Sports for leaseAvensis Business Edition Saloon for lease

The Week In Motoring #8

The Week In Motoring #8 660 300 Anthony Anthony

Land Rover’s Latest Innovation

Land Rover has revealed that they have developed an innovation that will allow drivers to see through their own bonnets and view the terrain below with the use of augmented technology.

The car giant claims that the new technology will render the bonnet ‘virtually’ invisible from inside the vehicle. Whilst this may not be of significant use to road users, Land Rover do say that it will considerably enhance their vehicles’ off-road ability.

Land Rover’s director of research and technology, Dr. Wolfgang Epple has said of the technology, ‘As our vehicles become more capable and autonomous off-road we will ensure the driver has the confidence to allow the car to continue to progress over any terrain.’ He goes on to exclaim how technology will hold a key part in the future of the motor industry: ‘We believe the next 25 years will be the most exciting and dynamic that the automotive industry has ever experienced. There will be huge strides in environmental innovation in safety and capability.’

The transparent bonnet, along with a whole host of new technologies, is to be showcased at the New York International Motorshow which gets under way on April 16th.

Record First Quarter for Mercedes Vans

The number of Mercedes vans registered in the first quarter of 2014 is 12.5% up on the same period last year. Totalling 6,619 units and marking the fifth consecutive quarter that Mercedes has experienced growth for their vans, this sets a record high for the German manufacturer.

Additionally, parts, 24hour roadside recovery and sales of service contracts have all also experienced very solid first quarters, with the latter achieving 178% of its targets.

The managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans, Steve Bridge, attributes the record breaking start to 2014 to the “hard work and commitment of a fantastic team.”

Ultra-Low Emission Zone to Arrive in London

London is to become the first city in the world to have an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) which would encompass all types of vehicles. The zone will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is expected to cover an area of central London similar to the current Congestion Charge zone.

Transport for London are currently gaining stakeholders’ views on the proposal before publishing the consultation document next year and a ULEZ order next year (2015). This would then allow fleets 5 years to change their transport operations to ensure that their vehicles comply with new rules before the ULEZ takes effect in 2020.

The new Euro 6 compliance standards for mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx) is expected to be the key entry requirement into the ULEZ. With over 25% of road NOx emissions in central London being accounted for by cars and vans, the Euro 6 compliance standards are seen as vitally important to aiding the reduction of bad emissions by reducing NOx by up to 70%.

Autocar raise the valid point that it’s “another step towards banning older diesel and petrol-powered private cars from the city centre” posing sigificant financial implications for many ordinary Londoners.

Faced with such changes to legislation and regulations, it’s no wonder leasing is fast becoming a preferred means of motoring, offering not just flexibility, but reassurance and compliance too. Call us on 01753 851561 to discuss how leasing can be of benefit to you.

Car of the Week

Our car of the week this week is this super Vauxhall Corsa Energy 1.2VVTi 5Dr Hatch – available to lease, or purchase:

Year / Reg 2013
Mileage 190
Engine 1.2L
Fuel Petrol
Gearbox Manual
Consumption (combined) 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions 129g/km
0-62mph 13.6 seconds
Engine Power 85bhp
Colour Carbon Flash Black

Vauxhall Corsa Energy 1.2VVTi 5Dr Hatch

This super runabout is available on 4-year and 3-year lease deals. If you’d like to book a test drive or talk to us out about the options, then don’t hesitate to call on 01753 851561.

The Week In Motoring #2

The Week In Motoring #2 660 300 Anthony Anthony

Ferrari 250 TR Becomes the Most Expensive Car Ever Sold In Britain

Don’t you hate it when you bid for a car but someone pips you to the post by offering more money? Well, our bid for the Ferrari 250 TR was slightly improved on by an anonymous bidder who snapped up the racer for £24million. This 1950s beauty has a 3.0 litre V12 engine and 300bhp and can reach a top speed of 167mph.

The seller was 1961 Formula 1 World Champion Phil Hill who, along with Peter Collins, raced it to victory in the 1958 12 Hours of Sebring. The car also picked up victory at the 1000km Buenos Aires and raced in 1957 at Le Mans.

In 1967, the car was donated to the Ford Dearborn Museum where it lived for 30 long years.

UK Car Manufacturing at 6 Year High

Figures produced by the Society of Motor Manufacturers show a 3.1% rise in UK manufactured cars during 2013, with 1.5 million cars coming off the production line. The figure is the highest since 2007 and is expected to keep rising with estimates suggesting over 2 million cars could be UK produced by 2017, making it the 3rd largest car manufacturer in Europe.

Business Secretary Vince Cable speaks very optimistically of the rise in UK manufacturing stating, “Today’s figures are another sign that the British Car Industry is going from strength to strength – with one vehicle rolling off a production line someone in the UK every 20 seconds.”

Around 80% of the cars produced were exported around the world which Cable says is “testament to the diverse, high quality of British Manufacturing.”

New Campaign Highlights Risks to Business Drivers

Surprisingly, it has emerged that 21% of traffic collisions in the North-East involve people driving for work purposes. This has caused members of the public to question why there isn’t the same attention paid to highlighting the dangers of driving for work as there is drink driving, which is accountable for a quarter less traffic collisions.

From 2008 – 2012, 74 people died as a result of collisions involving business-related travel in the North-East with a further 748 serious injuries and 8262 slight injuries.

These statistics have caused Road Safety North East to launch a new campaign warning businesses that they could be prosecuted if they neglect their employer responsibilities. Among the campaign are guidelines including paying attention to weather conditions, avoiding distractions and to allow ample time for their journeys. The campaign also reminds employers that they are liable under the Corporate Manslaughter Act if their policies are not up to standard.

Schumacher Slowly Coming Out of Coma

7-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher is having his sedation reduced as doctors prepare to bring him out of his coma. Sabire Kehm has stated that doctors are beginning the ‘waking up process’ but that bringing Schumacher out of his coma “could take a long time.”

Schumacher has been in a medically-induced coma since 29th December after suffering a serious head injury whilst skiing in the French Alps. His family have requested continued privacy from the general public but have expressed their “sincere appreciation for the worldwide sympathy.”

Car of the Week

Our car of the week this week is the fantastic BMW 1 Series 120i.

Year / Reg 2010 (60)
Mileage 90,490
Engine 2.0L
Fuel Petrol
Gearbox Manual
Body Coupe
Colour White

BMW 120i

Price: £9,999

This BM1 Series Coupe is in excellent condition (both interior and exterior) and comes with a full service history, 3 month guarantee and 12 months MOT.

For further information, please call 01753 851561, or click here to view full details.