Tesla motors presented their newest car model on March 31, 2016. This isn’t an fully autonomous car, but a semi self-driving car with advanced cruise control. The question remained is when will we have an autonomous car? According to Re-code’s editor J. Bhuiyan it can happen soon:”If it’s not the personal car ownership model, it’ll happen way, way faster, 10 so or so years that these cars will be on the road and the mass market will experience them and have access to them.” In this article we explore what challenges lies ahead, their possibilities and in what development phase scientist are currently in.
Bhuiyan spoke with Recode’s K. Swisher and The Verge L. Goode about how this emerging technology can change things on many fronts including the truck industry and how people travel by car. They said that you currently have big companies like General Motors, Google, Uber, Tesla and a load of start-ups that focus on making the autonomous car possible. And you have smaller companies that solely focus on the brain or eyes of the vehicle with some sort of partnership.
At this moment the Tesla car have the biggest share in the car market with semi driving cars. However, Google has the most experienced data with this self-driving vehicle. Uber owned truck company Otto has made it’s autonomous drive on the highway, however a human must assist it to make it their. Google and Ford want to minimize the risks for human interference with the system, by making cars fully autonomous. Thus, you minimize accidents already with advanced cruise control. some services already give over the air updates to fix your car.
The algorithms gives you safety in the (semi) self-driving car and it learns to deal with complicated obstacles on the road. It doesn’t work flawlessly, because manufactures still ask questions. Other problems are for example how to navigate through snow. Researchers explore on area’s as lasers, lidars and GPS navigation technology to solve these route-blocks. For example Uber took his fleet of failed driving cars to Phoenix Arizona (USA), where there are no special permits or licencing required to test these cars. On top of that Uber partnered up with the University of Arizona for research on self-driving and mapping technology as of august 2015.
Self-driving vehicles can’t measure puddles or even a filled- in pothole or deal with unexpected collision. How does it measure the reaction? Google and companies develop more precise laser based and other technologies. Automaker Mercedes-Benz has already a car on the market that can detect barriers, incoming traffic, roadside trees, guardrails and keep the car on track even on roads without the white lines. The Swiss federal technology institute in Lausanne (EPFL) developed an algorithm which can operate self-driving vehicles in multi lane traffic, high-speed under real life conditions. It’s a combination of WiFi system, which communicate with other vehicles and cost driving assistance devices. EPFL said it fakes 15 years before most cars are equipped with this technology.
Second challenge is to map roads accurate. Solutions such as map scan go out of date, because road conditions change. Google bubble-shaped self-driving cars rely on three dimensional maps combined with sensor reading to find their way on the road. The car manufactures share a couple of main technologies such as mapping and standard communication from car to car. Otherwise, they don’t let any info out, because of the fierce competition. Lasers and lidars help in the process of detecting government signs. It’s no solution to traffic.
Another dilemma is when humans show unpredictable behavior: like having a heart attack or falling asleep behind the wheel. Through biometic technology autonomous cars have this life saving capability. Ford already has patents and systems that detect when a driver is in an agitated state and take the incoming call. This take-over time with safe autonomous cars is crucial for safety. Researchers from the University of South-Hampton found that drives reacted 25.7 seconds when they where distracted and then have to take over the car wheel. A former Navy SEAL J. Brown drove in a Tesla model S when he collided with a oncoming truck. The car manufactures initially took the blame, but when the report came out Brown didn’t take any action to avoid the accident. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration placed the responsibility for the accident for the most part on the driver. Automakers wouldn’t escape liability claims when their system fails in a crash. In semi self-driving cars you still are responsible behind the wheel.
Lastly, if the technology is running smoothly governments need to regulate laws. Do you need a license to drive one? Would it limit the autonomous car to serve the disabled or elderly? Many of the manufactures plead for guidelines and that this will be updated regularly. For example truck drivers aren’t needed anymore at one point, because jobs can become obsolete until trucks care fully autonomous. ”Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save life’s and increase economic productivity. But these benefits won’t be realized unless the public has incredible assurance that such systems are save and reliable,” said A.J. London, professor at Carnegie Mellon University (USA). Nothing is in vain because according to the Fleet Management Company’s report: USA would annually save 300 Billion dollar in GDP lost to traffic accidents. Although USA lawmakers and federal agencies have a hard time to oversee these autonomous vehicles, they still made guidelines with a 15 point safety checklist for automakers.
It seems that driver-less vehicles are on the rise and it many positive/negative sides to it. Jobs that require drivers can become obsolete, such as taxi, truck industry and in public transportation. On the other hand people can travel more independently, such as the elderly and the disabled. And large traffic jams and accidents can become a hurdle of the past. With this new technology comes responsibility and governments need to regulate fore seeing obstacles, such as safety precautions, who can travel independently and who is liable when things go south. Autonomous cars are still in the development stages for now we have advanced cruise control.