Driverless Cars: A Futuristic Rumor, or Growing Possibility?
You’ve likely heard rumblings about driverless cars from various sources, but it looks like driverless cars may become a reality sooner than people think. So far, the states of Nevada, California, Michigan and Florida have approved driverless cars under certain circumstances. In 2013, the federal government paved the way for more such laws by issuing an encouraging policy statement. Cities in France, Italy and Belgium are looking at automated cars for public transit. We’re obviously in the beginnings of this technology, and there are many factors and regulations to consider. But this futuristic dream is quickly becoming a reality.
In the Works
Google cars have been test-driven on highways across the continent and the world. Using the platoon method, automated cars follow the leader, sharing exact location and speed. Car manufacturers and car reviewers are projecting a seven-to-ten year span before driverless cars are available, perhaps even commonplace. Nissan, for instance, has announced that it is on track to release driverless cars by 2020. Driverless cars could eliminate traffic congestion, reducing pollution dramatically. More importantly, these cars could reduce accidents dramatically, saving money and reducing human suffering. This could save more than 30,000 lives in the U.S. Alone. That is, if the technology is developed enough to make these vehicles safe enough to become commonplace on the road.
Trials and Tests
At the International Consumer Electronics Show, BMW and Audi conducted demonstrations of their own driverless technology. BMW modified its 2 Series Coupe, adding highly active assist technology to manage braking, steering and acceleration. BMW is working on computerized decision-making and driving strategy. Audi has reduced its computer system from trunk-sized to shoe-box sized. In fact, Audi fitted it in the glove compartment of its concept car, the Sport Quattro Laserlight. The compact computer is expected to handle everything from reading road signs to spotting dangers.
Barriers to Making it a Reality
Automated driving faces some hurdles. The price tag may be steep, but this may already be dropping. Automated driving features, such as adaptive cruise control, are becoming more affordable. Some drivers object because they love being in control. For them, relinquishing the wheel will be difficult. Yet another obstacle is privacy, since these systems will create a readable pattern of GPS data, tracing the car’s movements precisely. The federal government, however, has commissioned a study of automated vehicle to vehicle communication which indicates that this can be accomplished without a data trail.
In addition, automated driving will face legal hurdles related to liability and safety. Liability will be an issue since it could be the car’s fault and not the driver’s. This changes the current equation from one of human error to one of corporate responsibility. Safety is an issue until all systems have been proven. Both liability and safety become even more complicated issues if there is a blend of self-driving and regular cars on the road.
Whether you embrace this type of technology, or you’re skeptical of it’s legitimacy, these developments are already in the works, and plans are already being made. As technology continues to develop, these plans will change. This will likely be a long process, however the idea of a driverless car could be a reality in the not-so-distant future.
About the Writer: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write for business, finance, women’s interests, and technology. Dixie lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters. The information for this article was provided by the auto professionals of Speedy Brake and Apollo Muffler, who specialize in tire repair in Calgary.