Autonomous car development has a strong relation with enhancing the safety on the road as road accidents are one of the biggest man-made threats to human life. Around half a trillion dollars are lost annually around the world in road accidents and more than 90% of them are due to human error.
Driving to and from work, and to other places also takes up a huge chunk of our time which could otherwise be used for more productive endeavors. In the UK, citizens waste 81 hours a year in driving and being stuck in traffic. Estimations say that up to 15 times more people can fit on today’s roads, so self-driving cars can help with that as they can not only drive safer but also much closer to each other.
Autonomy in driving has been contested and discussed since the last 50 years where Japanese and German companies installed autonomous security systems and software in their cars. But it was only in 2009 that Google started developing Chauffeur, it’s wholly autonomous car which has been in use till date.
However, the current prototypes that exist are something even beyond as they aim to address more commercial purposes. Today, there are many car manufacturers that have already or are in the process of releasing autonomous vehicles. Ford, General Motors, Tesla, Mercedes, Audi, Nissan, Alfa Romeo and others are all working on progressing their prototypes further and the sale of such vehicles on the level field is anticipated to take place in 2020.
As an autonomous vehicle’s most important functional aspect is its computer system, when connected to the internet, it could be vulnerable to attacks. Freedom of movement and privacy may also be compromised if police, government or terrorists gain access to the last journey taken or journey history, to predict future journeys. Software bugs are another concern in the safety of such vehicles along with pedestrian negligence in following road rules. Yet there is much convenience too that will come for personal riders especially the disabled or the elderly who are not able to independently drive themselves currently. It can also make vehicle-related crimes more difficult to get away from.
However before these self-driving vehicles become a norm they are some barriers that remain like; the need of highly detailed road maps, social acceptance of the technology and governmental laws and their implementations.
The insights from the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 have revealed that the self-driving concept is likely to be applied in shared rides rather than individual ones. Mobility for self-driving vehicles is estimated to be marketed and first implemented in a very utilitarian way of commercial riding like for deliveries or for ride sharing, looking at the different latest models which companies like Ford, General Motors, and Waymo have revealed.
The features of the cars as well, like its limited speed, prohibitive costs, efficiency, and design all point towards why they are likely to be shared at least initially.
Another advantage of the initial commercial use of these cars is the fact that cars in commercial use will be deployed by a company who can make sure where and how are they being driven and whether they are operating in an appropriate weather for their sensors or not. With that the commercial fleet of autonomous vehicles will be regularly checked and properly maintained; where with a personal customer once the vehicle is bought it’s not seen again.
However, speculations are plenty on when, if ever, these vehicles will be adopted and shared by people widely and what implications will it have on car ownerships.
Some believe that even if the driverless vehicles become a norm, the fact that people will actually give car ownership up is highly unlikely anytime soon as people still enjoy driving. Yet many others like the Chief Business Officer at Lyft contest that the upcoming generation will be more than happy to comply.
While the race for driverless vehicles is on, what remains unsolved are the implications of its shared adoptions. What will provide further clarity is the government action and their take on it, for these cars might be autonomous in their ability but they aren’t autonomous in their use as they will require an entire ecosystem of connected mechanics on and off roads like street sensors and special marking that will relay information to the cars as they move.