Automobiles that are completely self-driving (or autonomous) were once considered science fiction. Now you must be thinking, yes, we’ve seen them in the movies, but when will we be able to use them on our roads? And better yet, when can we get one for ourselves?
Well, soon! Get your finances in order and check the car finance calculator because self-driving cars are right around the corner!
How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?
The premise is simple: equip a car with cameras to track everything around it and react if it is at risk of collision. Teach in-car computers the rules of the road before letting them drive alone.
Yet, this summary is an oversimplification. Driving is one of the more demanding daily tasks individuals perform. Making eye contact with other drivers to decide who has the right of way, reacting to weather conditions, and other decisions are difficult to codify in strict standards.
Here are some of the features that make a car smart and self-driving.
- Detection of blind spots
- Control of electronic stability
- Collision warning in the forward direction
- Warning for lane deviation
- Automatically activated emergency braking.
- Help with lane centring
- Automatic emergency braking for pedestrians and at the rear
- Cross-traffic alerts at the rear
- Surveillance cameras in the rearview mirror
- Cruise control that adapts to the situation
- Assistance with lane-keeping
- Assistance with traffic congestion
What Qualifies As Smart?
Almost every major automobile manufacturer has dabbled in self-driving car development. However, some companies take it considerably more seriously than others.
Two key data can be used to assess how far a self-driving car program has progressed. One is the distance it has travelled. This is a proxy for the company’s training data and the amount of money invested in getting its cars on the road.
The latter figure must consider disengagements per mile driven, which are times when a human must take control because the computer cannot handle a scenario.
Why Are Self-Driving Cars A Concern?
Fully autonomous (Level 5) vehicles are now being tested globally, albeit none are currently available to the public. That’ll take years. The challenges are technological, legal, environmental, and philosophical. And these are only a few of the unknowns.
- Lidar is expensive and still in its experimental stages with range and resolution. Will many autonomous cars’ lidar signals interfere with each other if they share the road? Will the frequency range be sufficient to mass-produce autonomous cars if several radio frequencies are available?
- What happens in case of heavy rain? Lane dividers vanish when the road is covered in snow. How will cameras and sensors track lane lines obscured by water, oil, ice, or debris?
- Will self-driving cars struggle to negotiate bridges or tunnels? How will they do in rush hour? How many lanes will self-driving cars have? Can they use the carpool lane? What about the fleet of old cars that will still be on the road in 20 or 30 years?
- Who is accountable for self-driving automobile accidents? The manufacturer? What about humans? A fully autonomous Level 5 car will not have a dashboard or a steering wheel, preventing a human passenger from taking control in an emergency.
- Making eye contact with pedestrians or analyzing other drivers’ facial expressions and body language helps human drivers make split-second judgment decisions and forecast behaviours. Can self-driving cars recreate this link? Will they be able to save lives like human drivers?
Are They At All Useful?
- Advanced computer systems and algorithms will essentially remove costly human error. Intoxicated or inattentive driving will no longer be a concern with self-driving automobiles. Self-driving cars can reduce accidents by up to 90%.
- The social cost is critical in weighing the pros and cons of self-driving cars. According to reports, driverless cars might save the world $800 billion annually. Accident-related costs can be reduced, as can the stress on the healthcare system, improved mobility, and fuel savings.
- One of the major advantages of self-driving cars is their ability to communicate. Cars could travel at optimal distances if they could communicate in real-time. They’d also figure out the best way to avoid traffic jams.
- Driverless cars may be a safe and reliable alternative for those who cannot or do not wish to drive. Disabled or older adults could enter a self-driving automobile without endangering others. Self-driving cars would also help cities with limited public transportation. Self-driving cars can easily reach remote regions.
- The environment is another major factor when considering the advantages and disadvantages of self-driving cars. In-wheel autonomous cars will most likely be electric. The consistent speeds of self-driving automobiles will also reduce the need for constant braking and accelerating. All of these factors will help reduce emissions and improve sustainability.
So Are They Here Yet?
According to the Department for Transport, autonomous vehicles could be seen on British roads later this year.
With the GB type clearance and no evidence to refute the vehicle’s potential to self-drive, the government has described how vehicles equipped with Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) technology could lawfully be classified as self-driving.
ALKS, designed for highway use in slow traffic, allows a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane while quickly returning control to the driver.
The device could improve road safety by reducing human error, accounting for roughly 85% of all accidents. To delegate control to the car, the driver can set a speed limit and keep a safe distance from other vehicles.
The announcement comes alongside a public consultation on proposed modifications to the Highway Code to ensure the safe and responsible use of the first wave of this technology.