Most people love big-budget Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters that make the unbelievable look totally believable. Movies like Fifth Element, Minority Report, i-Robot and the Star Wars series are some of the all-time classics. When you think back at these movies, what did they all have in common – yep, you guessed it, they featured driverless/autonomous cars. Fifth Element took it to the extreme as these cars were not only autonomous, but they flew as well. Now we know for a fact that flying cars are some way off the mark, however what we also do know is that fully autonomous or driverless cars are not. If fact, they are just around the corner.
Ford motor company in the U.S. have in fact just started testing food trucks that will deliver food to you without a driver (Ford testing autonomous food truck). To be more specific, at this stage, the delivery vehicles will be driven however the drivers will not be visible in the vehicle and will not interact with the customers.
GM announced on the 6th June that it will roll-out a semi-autonomous feature to all its cars starting in 2020 (Cadillac super cruise expands 2020 GM). To quote, ‘It uses LIDAR, cameras, sensors, and mapping data to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel while driving on divided highways, but it has an infrared camera on the steering column to make sure eyes stay on the road.’
Tesla, a leader in autonomous cars, would begin rolling out Version 9 of Autopilot (Tesla autopilot full self driving elon musk).
With this version, Tesla will begin to enable full self-driving features. This was a promise made by Elon Musk two years ago, where he said that ‘full self-driving’ capabilities will be available to Tesla cars by 2019.
There is no doubt that the benefits of autonomous or driverless cars are numerous and significant:
- Less Traffic Congestion
- Increase in Safety
- More free Time (for us mere mortals)
- Better transportation service
- Better health (once again, for us mere mortals)
- Reduced Emissions
- Increased Demand for new Jobs
However, as with all new tech, there are the inevitable disadvantages as well:
- Will (initially) be out of the price range for most
- Job Losses (Delivery vehicles, taxis etc.)
- Major infrastructure improvements/upgrades
- Constraints in operating environments limit their practical use i.e. heavy rain/snow hinders their capability and increases safety risk
- Software Glitches
The last disadvantage, ‘Software Glitches’, is one of the major issues to date that has marred the development of autonomous vehicles. To date, there has been 4 deaths in the use of this technology.
There is a myriad amount of information on the net that talks about when fully autonomous cars will become reality. Some say it will happen as early as this year whilst other say it is some years off. What I can say however is that as with all new technology, we must tread with extreme caution. I have no doubt that as this technology approaches maturity, it will be another one of man’s wonderful technical achievements. The real concern is the journey in getting to this automotive nirvana and the number of ‘accidental’ deaths that have (and may) continue to occur in getting to this point. After all, we aren’t just talking about Hollywood block-buster movies.