Self-driving cars are definitely on the way, but it may be some time before we are all being conveyed by fully automated vehicles.
Most accidents are caused by human error so if this factor can be minimized by taking control of the moving vehicle away from the driver, the accident rate should tumble. Data from the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) already show a reduction in property damage liability and collision claims for cars equipped with forward-collision warning systems, especially those with automatic braking. The exact percentage varied depending on the car manufacturer.
Among the major automakers testing self-driving cars are Audi, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo. The cars have some ability to travel without the driver intervening but only in certain situations, such as low speed stop-and-go highway traffic. Slow speeds give the car’s computers more time to process information and react.
Experts vary as to when the changeover to self-driving cars will occur. A transport scholar at the University of Minnesota believes that by 2030 every car on the road will be driverless. Driverless shuttles are already being tested on some university campuses in Europe.
An automotive study by IHS, a global information company, titled “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars—Not If But When” forecasts that self-driving cars that include driver control will be on highways around the globe before 2025 and self-driving “only” cars by 2030. Nearly all of the vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles sometime after 2050, it says. The study notes two major technology risks, software reliability and cyber-security.
We do not yet know how the driving public will react to the vehicles that come on the market. For most drivers there will be a steady progression from a minimally or semi-automated car to the next level. A Status Report from HLDI suggests that it could take as long as three decades for 95 percent of all registered cars to be equipped with crash avoidance systems. Forward-collision warning systems have been available since 2000, HLDI says, and if they follow their current trajectory, they will not be available in most cars until 2049.
In addition, some people who enjoy driving and do not want control to be taken from them may resist the move to complete automation. Already there are some who say they refrain from using the cruise control feature because they prefer to maintain control themselves.
The risk of an accident is unlikely to be completely removed since events are not totally predictable and automated systems can fail. In addition, the transition from hands-off driving to hands-on promises to be tricky.
The need for drivers to control the car in an emergency is fraught with questions, not just those involved in the automotive technology. What kind of training will people need to safely handle these semi-autonomous vehicles? How well prepared will drivers be to handle emergencies when the technology returns control to the driver? How will beginning drivers gain the necessary experience and how will experienced drivers stay sharp enough when they are only infrequently called upon to react?
Autonomous cars have been compared to airplanes on auto-pilot. But while a pilot and a driver both need to be able to make split-second decisions, there are likely to be fewer times when this skill is called upon in a plane than in a car and, in addition, the pilot is highly trained in how to interact with the automated system.
Thanks to iii.org