Across the world, talk of driverless cars is causing a stir. No matter the differing opinions on the issue, no one can deny that the idea itself is incredible. Within our lifetimes, we could be living in the futuristic reality portrayed in films. Of course, when we think of films like i Robot, the possibility of developments becomes quite scary. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it; things get quite tense with artificial intelligence.
But, take away the as yet unfounded fears about giving technology more power, and our lives are set to change for the better. While there are widespread concerns about the safety of these vehicles, they look to be foolproof against most accidents. They’ll be set to certain speeds, avoid each other with sensors, and remove the possibility of human error. Not to mention that issues such as drink driving will become a thing of the past. Let’s be honest; they’ll be much better drivers than us. They’ll certainly take some much needed pressure off police services.
Every country is at a different level with its driverless cars. The UK is at the forefront of driverless technology, and driverless options are soon to be tested on UK roads. In America, Domino’s pizza delivery is testing driverless delivery options. Here in Australia, driverless cars look set to reach retirement villages by November. And one million fully autonomous cars are expected on the roads by 2035.
For those who haven’t kept up with the developments, all this seems to be happening fast. How did the future catch up all of a sudden? You could argue that one moment, the focus appeared to be on electric vehicles. The next, things had gone up a notch with these autonomous developments.
But, when you break it down, are driverless cars really all that hard to imagine? Vehicles like the Subaru Outback have reverse cameras for smart reversing, built in sat nav capabilities, and much more. The Tesla Model S P100D takes things even further, with semi-autonomous driving backed by eight cameras, 12 sensors and forward facing radars. Currently, the self driving mode in these models is limited to 45mph, but Tesla is looking to raise that rate soon.
So, we’re much further along than we might think. Sensor technology will be the forerunner in the developments. And, with the majority of new cars using some sort of reverse technology, it’s easy to see how this will work. Your car already beeps or warns you how close you come to hitting the wall. Really, then, is it such a stretch to imagine it stopping itself from crashing?
Satellite navigation will also play a huge role in developments. That is, after all, how the vehicles will get us from a to b. Again, when you break this down, it isn’t so difficult to believe. Thanks to Google Maps and Google Earth, we have incredible sat nav opportunities. And, there’s nothing to stop us using that to teach technology where to go. We already do this with the increasingly popular drones of recent years. By using the navigation system, you can ensure they either return home or reach your chosen destination.
So, driverless cars are arguably not the out of this world leap they seem to be. In fact, it’s quite simple to see the thinking behind the ideas. Once you put two and two together, we can see how the development of such vehicles may not take as long as you’d think. Hence why most experts are predicting driverless cars will hit our roads even sooner than we’re expecting.
So, that’s how, but what exactly do these developments mean for us? As mentioned above, experts predict much safer roads once we’re fully automatic. Understandably, this has been a major area of worry for many. After all, there’s a variety of obstacles to overcome when driving. These cars will have to drive around corners, while also foreseeing oncoming traffic seamlessly. They’ll have to traverse other cars on the road. And, they’ll have to avoid pedestrians at crossings. It’s hard enough to manoeuvre these things with independent thought, let alone expecting a machine to do them.
But, the rigorous testing taking place on all developments of driverless cars should be enough to put our minds at ease. When you consider the amount of cameras and sensor systems companies are using, it’s easy to see how accidents could become a thing of the past. When all cars are automatic, the unpredictable elements of the road will be gone. And, tests carried out by Scholars at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute are making experts consider how we as pedestrians react to driverless cars. It’s thought that, with the development of hand signals, we could actually beckon such vehicles to stop at crossings.
As well as ensuring our safety, driverless cars ensure a much wider range of the population is able to get out. In time, it’s thought that driving licenses will become a thing of the past. The elderly, disabled, and even the young will potentially be able to hit the roads by as soon as 2025. Of course, time has yet to tell how practical this freedom on the roads will be. It may be that a different testing has to be put into place. But, for now, the road looks set to become our oyster.
It’s also thought that driverless vehicles will change typical car ownership behaviors. It’s predicted that fewer people will own their own cars, with more opting for sharing or rental options. This has got to be good news for the car-filled streets of the current age. In recent years, communities have taken a major hit, with car parking stopping kids from being able to play out. But, could our step into the future actually take us back to the times of happy communities in our neighborhoods? Again, only time will tell. Either way, if all goes according to plan, these epic autos could change all of our lives for the better.