Thursday, September 21

The Murky World of Self-Driving Cars (Part 2)

The Murky World of Self-Driving Cars Part 2

We are heading toward a world where cars will eventually be able to drive themselves and that frightens some people and excites others. There are many questions regarding the possibility of turning over the controls of a vehicle to the computers and systems that are offered to handle the work involved in getting you where you need to go. We can romanticize about what it will be like to ride in a car and not have to pay attention to the road, but that seems to be a long ways off with more questions than answers; here are some of those questions:

Is self-driving considered safe?

As you would expect, as long as the programming is correct and the system works the way it’s supposed to, these cars will be safer than we are behind the wheel. There won’t be emotions, distractions or tiredness to get in the way and cause the computers to fail. The Google test fleet was able to log more than 500,000 miles without any major issues making it a seriously successful testing of the systems being developed. The possibility of a system failure is still present which does make us worry this might not be a system you can always rely on.

What are we in store for over the next few years?

While most of us would love the idea of programming a destination into the computer of our car and then laying down in the seats to sleep until we reach the destination or the need for gas arises, but that won’t happen for several years. We will still need to be alert and aware while the semiautonomous systems grow and become better overall until a time when we have cars that are able to get you where you’re going while allowing you to rest.

How is the future setup?

In the near term, we can expect to see a lane that’s designated for self-driving vehicles only while using this system. This could help with traffic that you face. Once this is set up, there will likely be a slew of changes to the infrastructure to add more capability to the automotive world. The long-term, which is several years down the road, the autonomous vehicles we have will be able to drive fast, above 100 mph, and seamlessly merge and deliver us where we want to go.

What about obstacle avoidance?

This is actually one of the challenges that automakers and tech companies are seriously working on to help bring a change to the market. Right now a forward collision warning system can detect an object in the road and brake to the point of stopping before hitting it, but there isn’t a system out there right now to take evasive actions and avoid the obstacle that’s in the way. Eventually, this may happen, but this is one of the biggest challenges faced as we move from the driving we do now to be able to have a fully autonomous system in the future.

Will there be more accidents in the interim?

It’s not really a surprise that we believe that people of today are worse drivers than what they were ten, twenty or even fifty years ago. The distractions we take into the cars and the systems that do more of the work of driving for us are taking away some of our talents on the road. Even with these facts, there may be fewer accidents because the car will be better and able to help to avoid a collision when out on the road, which can make driving better even if we’re worse at it.

What if you want to drive the car in the future?

As we move forward the ability for you to take over and drive will continue to be offered. The only way this might change is if the responsibility for an accident would be put on the automaker when the system fails. In this case, no automaker is going to want to have their insurance costs increased because you chose to take over the wheel in a car that you haven’t driven in several years, but that is certainly in the extreme future.

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