A driverless car is described as a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human inputs. These robotic or autonomous cars currently exist as prototypes with several global automobile companies who are experimenting with this technology.
So why do we need a driverless car? There are many advantages to this scenario of the future where we envision parking to no more be a hassle. When you can alight at your destination and the car would find a parking slot on its own to park and you can signal it to pick you up using a smartphone. Safety, while driving can be better assured with such a car. Shockingly, every year almost 1.24 million people meet with a fatal road accident in the world and many more face severe injuries.
Drunk and distracted driving cause the most number of accidents. Driver error is the most common reason, this happens due to various distractions like text messaging, calling on the phone, talking to co-passengers and in-car entertainment. Drivers who are using a mobile phone are four times more prone to an accident than a person not using a phone. So if you can’t focus on the road, control the steering and let your mind concentrate on the road then an accident can occur. Instead if technology can do this for you then you are free to attend to your call even while driving. Unlike humans driverless cars are less prone to error and don’t face fatigue issues.
Long drives on vacation would be more relaxing and enjoyable. You can read a book, watch a movie, relax and listen to music as your car drives you through scenic highways. There could be fewer accidents hence lesser costs of car like insurance, repairs and law-suits. Insurance companies and government revenues from fines would take a hit if these models came into existence. Indeed even children can use a car without a license and can commute to school on their own in the safety of the robotic car. Wouldn’t this be a respite to parents rushing for work? The law in many countries like US and Europe require manual driving of cars and not driven by robots. Hence either these laws have to be amended or such cars will be restricted in these countries. Initially the price to pay for these driving gizmos would be high and available only in luxury cars. But as technology evolves the autonomous cars would become more reliable and cheaper.
How do they work?
Many automobile manufacturing companies are experimenting with semi autonomous cars. BMW has come up with 2014 BMW X5 which has the capability of driving up to 25 miles/hour using its Traffic Jam system but the driver is not totally hands-free. By 2020 there is a plan for Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Nissan to flood the market with self-driving cars.
The latest buzz is Google’s project called chauffeur system which uses Lidar (light detecting and ranging).The details of stationary objects like traffic lights, crossroads etc. are preloaded using Maps. The landscape and moving objects are filled out by Lidar. It uses a camera, GPS and radar which has the capability to map points using 64 rotating laser beams taking more than a million measurements per second to form a 3D model that’s accurate to the centimeter. Google’s system won’t allow you to go off to sleep though it needs assistance for deciding on conflicting maps information and also to park in the garage.
The flip-side of all the perks of travelling with ease is the issue of privacy. People will be tracked where they travel and hence there will be no freedom and privacy. In situations when a technology error causes an accident then it’s a debatable issue whether the person would be at fault or the system. Would it also mean no more thrilling car races, fewer jobs for taxi drivers and delivery guys? Only time will tell.
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