Just a few years ago self-driving cars were something you’d only see in sci-fi movies. Today the year is 2019 and the autonomous car technology is already being developed. We see giants in the automotive and technological industries starting to work together in the making of the best driverless car possible.
Fully autonomous technology is still a work in progress. However, partially automated one is already a fact, allowing cars to park by themselves or even be controlled remotely. These partially autonomous cars market is expected to become a very large one by 2025 – $36 billion, about five times larger than the fully autonomous – $6 billion. They both are set to enjoy some heavy investments.
With all that interest and investments, we can assume that self-driving cars are imminent. Nevertheless, they’re still further away than we might think. There is a range of technical and ethical challenges that need to be overcome in order to become a part of our daily lives.
Companies like Tesla, Google and Uber are pushing their limits of innovation to dominate the autonomous space. But why is that when people still don’t accept driverless cars and how could they be the future of driving? Keep on reading if you want to find out:
A common belief is that a connected infrastructure is needed to deal with current problems. Last year, German manufacturers Daimler, BMW and Audi paid $3,1 billion for the Nokia Here mapping service, which will be used as a platform for a connected environment. It should lay the foundation for next-generation mobility and location-based services.
“Here” is a step towards fully autonomous driving. Real-time vehicle data, as well as precise digital maps, will be used in order to increase road safety and facilitate innovative products and services. Such systems will be required in all vehicles, including the ones still used by humans.
Vehicles such as ambulances will still need human drivers, but they’ll have a method of communicating with the surrounding autonomous car which would also allow them to reach their destination easier and faster. The connected infrastructure will provide a safer experience and transportation. There’s only one unpredictable problem:
Dealing with unpredictable human behavior could be a challenge for any technology. Autonomous cars could be effective with the new connected infrastructure, but the human factor will always be there.
The best example we could think of when it comes to that is the Google Car or as it’s now called Waymo. That’s one of the most experienced autonomous vehicles and its interactions with human drivers seem to be its main weakness. Usually, accidents that involve autonomous vehicles don’t happen due to a fault in the system but human error.
A reported incident from last year, for instance, was a self-driving car hit by an inattentive driver, while waiting at traffic lights. These vehicles are equipped with all kinds of sensors, but in such a situation there’s not much they could do.
The currently used and tested self-driving cars don’t seem to adapt to the countless mistakes a human driver could do, in order to avoid all kinds of collisions. This puts them at risk when surrounded by unpredictable human behavior.
All of the innovative technology in autonomous cars make them more vulnerable to hackers. In fact, car hacking is already a real thing. These driverless cars rely on computer systems entirely. This means the effects of a hacker attack could be devastating.
Due to this emerging problem governments start to insist on a higher level of security built into autonomous vehicles to manage any risk of unauthorized access.
Another concern is that all the sensors in self-driving cars could be easily confused by a placed a sticker on road signs. Those vehicles could be tricked to ignore a sign, which could cause serious consequences, so that’s something manufacturers should think about.
Transportation Becoming Easier Than Ever
Traveling is now getting more and more affordable. Air travel costs are dropping, and both leisure and business travelers are constantly looking for new experiences in new destinations. Driverless cars show a whole new side of this traveling trend.
Railways and motels will see a competitor in their faces. Think of it like this: you get into your driverless car in the evening and go to sleep and then you wake up 500 miles away. This would be a new extremely convenient way of long-distance traveling.
More Time For Yourself
The average commute time in the US is 50 minutes round trip per day and some people spend a lot more. Furthermore, we drive to different events or places out of the workday as well. In the end, you spend so much time driving, that you could’ve used it for yourself.
Well, autonomous cars allow you to do that. They could give us back more than an hour every day. Just take that time and use it however you feel comfortable. You could watch a movie or have a nap for instance. This means autonomous vehicles not only improve our in-car experience but the overall quality of our lives as well.
The Road Ahead
Now you probably know that autonomous cars could be used for more than just a nice “driving” experience. However, as many benefits as they have, they could never be completely safe if they coexist with human drivers.
In the near future, we will have connected roadways and overall smart cities that will allow the safest transporting with self-driving cars. Until that happens, billions will have to be spent to find solutions for the currently existing problems, as the way cars react to pedestrians for example.
For now, we can benefit from the partial autonomous tech, which also provides an amazing driver experience. When it comes to fully self-driving vehicles, they’re a bit further away, but definitely a part of the future. However, driverless cars need their time for testing, so that they are completely ready when it’s time to hit the real-world rode.