When we think of the future, we tend to think of self driving cars, flying cars, the whole caboodle. In truth, we are not far from said future. For self driving car at least. Flying cars will take a little bit longer! However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US found that, in the last ten months, there were 400 crashes that involved self driving cars. While most of these crashes were not fatal, it still makes us question the idea that self driving cars are really the future.
What actually is a self driving car?
First of all, it is necessary to clarify the difference between a self driving car and an autonomous car. A self driving car means exactly what the name reflects: the car can drive itself in most situations. However, a human passenger must always be in the car to be able to take control.
An autonomous car relies on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems and powerful processors to execute software.
While the differences between an autonomous and a self driving car are not massive, a car that is fully autonomous could do anything and everything an human driver could. This is what makes it dangerous. It would be completely self aware and make its own decisions.
It should also be noted that fully autonomous cars are not yet available to the public. However, with our fast-moving technology, who knows when a fully autonomous car could become available?
Autonomous cars might not be the future just yet, because they still involve too many risks. However, with proper ‘training’, a fully autonomous car might change cars and driving as we know it.
Self driving cars today
While fully autonomous cars are in a (not-so) distant future, what is more available is self driving cars. These are cars that have some assisted features to its driver, like speed regulation, steering, breaking if it gets too close to another car. Today these mechanisms of ‘self driving’ are rather safe. They don’t require complex AI’s.
However these are cars that come with risks. If a driver was to rely too much on assisted steering or breaking, and leave the car to do its thing, it could forget it was driving and cause an accident. While the crashes that were reported this year were not fatal, they do have consequences. They cause injuries and question whether auto pilot or other assisted driver technologies are reliable.
Currently there are 830,00 Tesla cars in the US equipped with auto pilot and other driver assisted technologies. Many people believe that these are the future of keeping drivers safe on the road, if you disregard the number of crashes over the last few years.
Research has found that 94% of crashes that happen are due to human error. Self driving cars would be the way to reduce those numbers. They help anticipate danger with cameras and their intelligent software.
Self driving cars are not without risks
While we are a couple of years away from having fully autonomous cars, there are still considerations to take in mind when it comes to self driving cars.
One of the biggest dangers associated with self driving cars and autonomous vehicles, is who is liable if there is an accident? Is it the car manufacturer or is it the driver? These are serious questions that need answers before fully autonomous cars can be safely allowed in the road.
What happens when there is snow on the road and the cameras of the car cannot see its surrounding? The issue of weather is one that needs to be cleared up as well. Weather can be very sudden and dangerous; whether you are in a no automation car or a self driving/autonomous car. This also addresses the question of artificial versus emotional intelligence. Does a car have the same instincts to make judgement calls or rely on instinct?
And finally there are cybersecurity issues. Self driving cars are vulnerable to cyber attacks and those can bring danger for the drivers and passengers but for everyone around the car. What are the chances that a car will not be hacked to drive straight into pedestrians?
Looking to the future
Self driving cars sound like the future, and in a way they are. However, when you start to dig a little deeper as to what a self driving car is, and their reliability, it makes you wonder: are self driving cars really the future?
Before self driving cars are released to the wider public there are still many dangers that need to be solved. For now self driving cars are not the future yet. Could they be the future in a couple of years? Possibly, but guarantees have to be taken.
Self driving cars are up and coming, and if you focus on the safety aspects of those cars, they are certainly the way to the future.