The Debate on Driverless

When you contemplate the future of transport, most of us imagine flying cars and hover- boards. An urban utopia where electronic energy is the only energy, and everything can be switched on or off, and it’s all that simple. Whilst the 2010’s was supposed to be a time in which these technologies would come to life in 80’s fiction, the reality is not quite what people expected. Maybe, some day we can expect completely electric cities where we can completely fly through the air. For now, it’s driverless cars.

Image: Bosch

Driverless cars are being tested around the world by various tech companies (Google, Tesla, Uber, to name a few), yet the question on everyone’s lips remains the same. Are these motors actually safe? Before we discuss the technicalities of these machines, here is some myth-busting:

1. Passengers can be passive

The most common misconception with these cars that humans will be able to sit in the car, and simply do nothing. The car will have programming that will keep within the lane it is, however, creators are expecting an owner to be paying attention with a foot around the brake and a hand on the wheel. The car will not operate without some human interaction.

2. Automated cars can travel any distance

With the car still being tested, it must be known that the distance they can travel is limited. They will not be able to drive long distances, they will only be able to run in city environments in which they’re programmed to. It needs good weather and a good GPS signal so that it can operate correctly. It has been said by research scientist Greg Fitch at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, “The reason why those cars can drive themselves is because they know where they are in the world.”

Heading back towards safety, some of the pros of the vehicles include clearing up the roads — they have the ability to reduce the statistics on road accidents caused by human error, as well as this they can reduce the traffic and congestion, as they can go at a much higher speed and go closer to other vehicles without crashing into them, as robotic cars have sensors that prevent this. While these facts scream safety, what are the particulars of a possible wrong-doing, and how can drivers overcome this?

Google’s testing of these cars have been met with their problems, when two models collided as one model was in the wrong lane. Google have simply put these minor accidents down to fault of the drivers, and it could not be blamed on the technology. Although this was proven to be true, it has been said by John M. Simpson (director of consumer relations at Consumer Watchdog), that the cars did not react in the way a human driver would, and people are simply not as well informed on these cars — meaning that technically Google could, from a backwards angle, be at fault.

Image: Tony Avelar / AP

The answer to the question is quite simple: a automated-car savvy human must be alert and able to pay attention at all times. How tech companies will overcome this is still unknown, but to keep consumers of these cars safe, when they eventually go to retail, measures must be put in place to ensure they know exactly what they are doing, and that they are not at risk.

For now, pioneering electric cars will have to do for the tech hungry consumers. Maybe within another 20 years, we’ll be debating over flying cars.

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