It was only a few months ago that we reported on the future of motor vehicles. One of the biggest options, we said, was the future of self driving cars. In the short time since our last article, self driving vehicles have taken centre stage. Now more than ever, the future seems to be heading in the direction of autonomy. With advancements from nearly every major automaker, as well as incredible displays from companies like Google, there’s no denying that this concept has lept from the pages of science fiction and taken over our roads. What does that mean for us meatsacks who still like to get behind the wheel?
So you’re car may no longer require you in order to drive. Right away, many people shudder at the thought of being rushed down a freeway at 100 km/h without any way to control the vehicle. Many people refuse to accept the hard truth being presented by autonomous cars.
The truth that most people are just plain bad drivers.
One of the current leaders in autonomous cars is Google. Other manufacturers are looking to enhance the driving experience with autonomy,where Google is more focused on building a vehicle around autonomy. At the time of this writing, Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged over 1 million miles on city streets in California and Texas. In that time, those vehicles have been involved in 14 accidents. Of those 14 accidents, the self driving car has been found to have been responsible for, get ready for it, 0 accidents. That’s right, people can’t stop driving into these things.
The reason why a computer makes a better driver is that a computer doesn’t get distracted. In 11 of those 14 accidents, the operating Google car was rear ended. A computer doesn’t have a stressful job to worry about, the lingering smell of a nearby pizza place, incoming texts about the latest episode of Game Of Thrones, just the road and any dangers on it. Scanners and radar are assessing the road hundreds of time per second, which is far greater than the once every minute or so a distracted driver would check it. This results in a much safer driver. A safe, non-human driver.
Yet the problem remains. People don’t trust the computer to drive. They trust the newly licensed teenager with cell phones for hands, or the 97 year old who hasn’t been able to see since Reagan was in office, but not one of those fan-dangled computational devices.
On today’s roads, over 90% of accidents are the result of human error. Everything from simple fender benders all the way up to multi-car pileups can at some point be traced back to human error behind the wheel. Imagine being able to eliminate those errors. How much safer would our roads be? How many lives could stand to be saved by autonomous cars?
In addition to safety, autonomous cars will also create a more efficient roadway. No more waiting for someone to turn a corner, or someone driving below the speed limit. A future with autonomous cars can mean you step outside your home and get into a car, get into the grid of traffic, and then get out of the car at your destination. All done while working with other vehicles on the road in perfect harmony. After you exit the vehicle, the car travels on to the next person, and the cycle continues.
On the flip-side of that argument, how many lives could be ruined by autonomous cars? Taxi drivers, truck drivers, and other people who rely on operating a vehicle for their income may all face hard times should autonomous vehicles take over. With companies like Uber already asking to buy up entire fleets of autonomous vehicles, it’s not impossible to imagine a world where all the driving is done by non-humans.
So where does that leave us, the average driver? Self-driving cars are still a long ways out. While people have ridden in them, they can still get hung up on something as simple as rain, and forget about taking a winding dirt road or icy drive in the winter. Slowly, we’re being introduced to more driver-less features, such as adaptive cruise control or blind spot monitoring. Many companies, like Jaguar Land Rover, aren’t looking to replace people in cars, but rather enhance their driving with computer assistance.
Whether you believe in a future with autonomous cars or not is irrelevant, they are being built and they are coming. They aren’t looking to take your car and shuttle you around slowly, they are looking to prevent unnecessary deaths. To make a clumsy process more efficient. Like it or not, autonomy is the future of the car.
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