Many people think self-driving cars are still a 'far away, futuristic concept', however, the evolution of automated driving systems is very much underway today - with most modern vehicles already containing some degree of automation. In this blog, we decided to delve into the pro's and con's of autonomous cars to see whether they are efficient enough for our roads.
Already, the world has been exposed to partial autonomous driving, through technologies such as autopilot and automatic modes featured in many new vehicles. This new technology allows cars to park themselves, drive down a motorway, change lanes, and even adjust speed to oncoming traffic.
The latest driverless cars sense their surroundings using technology like LiDAR, radar, GPS, and also computer vision. The sensory information it gathers will then be processed to direct appropriate pathways for the vehicle to take - helping it to avoid obstacles and also obey the road signs and rules. The cars will also use a digital map which will constantly be updated according to the sensory input, which will allow the vehicles to adapt to changing situations as well as travel through unknown territories.
A well-known car has been paving the way for years, with their constant adaptation of technology and autonomous vehicles - known as Tesla. Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system, which enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. Each new Tesla has been equipped with 8 external cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a powerful onboard computer.
Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are there for Tesla drivers to use, who have their hands on the wheel, ready to to take over at any moment if it's needed.
The UK Government have been experimenting for quite a while with autonomous technology as a way of easing congestion whilst reducing emissions and human error. Following a consultation in 2020, it has previously been announced that partial self-driving will now be allowed on the UK roads by the end of this year. The Highway Code is expected to establish certain safety laws regarding the use of the autonomous driving technology which will cover the responsibility of those drivers.
Whilst we may be a few years off the completely 'driverless' cars, there are plenty of pro's and con's to consider for when that time arrives, which doesn't seem to be that far away - here are some of the main factors we have discovered on both sides of the debate.
Prevention of Human Error - With more than 90% of road accidents currently caused by some degree of human error, the introduction and development of autonomous vehicles has the ability to make our roads a lot safer.
Many experts point to the remarkable safety record of the modern aircraft to illustrate the safety of self-driving cars. Flying has been proven to be one of the safest modes of transport, with just one fatal accident occurring every three million commercial flights on average. In fact, commercial aircrafts have complete automated systems in charge of the entire flight (other than take-off and landing), in turn making you wonder why self-driving cars would be any different.
As a whole, computers based on sophisticated systems and algorithms will essentially eliminate much of the human error that takes place on the roads. A lot of major accidents are caused by intoxication, or distraction whilst driving, which will not be the case with self-driving cars. It's estimated that autonomous cars will have the ability to reduce accidents by up to 90%.
Environmentally Friendly - Another significant factor with self-driving cars is the environment. Most of the driverless vehicles are fully electric. Whilst the battery charge still contributes to emissions, it's considered to be at a much lower level than traditional petrol or diesel engines.
Where most fuel is burned when driving at higher speeds, braking and re-accelerating excessively, driverless vehicles cause less pollution in comparison as they use less fuel and energy when driving.
Accessibility - Having autonomous vehicles makes "driving" more accessible for those who can't drive, whether that's due to physical disability or health reasons. Google launched their driverless car, having these people in mind. The car has surpassed 10 million miles - more than 20,000 driverless miles per day - having only a couple of accidents to report. Therefor, having self-driving cars will give people that aren't able to drive a legitimate shot at independence on the road.
Reduces Congestion & Traffic - Autonomous vehicles will benefit congestion and traffic as the technology is able to communicate easily with others to not only reduce and improve traffic, but to also detect incidents or potential incidents early on. Meaning that the varying speeds and impatient drivers causing traffic and congestion will be reduced significantly.
Security Issues - Just like any other computer-enabled device, driverless cars will be at risk of potential cyber crimes. Hackers can be motivated to hack into the vehicles operating systems to steal important passenger data, or to disrupt its operation - putting the passengers safety at risk.
Hacking into an autonomous car has the ability to expose a great deal of someone's personal data - including your destination. With this information, someone could potentially track someone with an aim towards robbery or assault.
Job Loss - One of the main disadvantages to having driverless vehicles is job loss. There are many people that depend on driving in order to make a living, whether that's taxi drivers, bus drivers and delivery drivers, the people in these industries may find their career will face some serious issues as the world adopts autonomous vehicles.
Safety Risks - Although accidents would be reduced dramatically with driverless cars - there's still a chance of accidents happening, which could be worse than if caused by human error. Having an error in the cars computer coding after an update could lead to glitches that can result in potential accidents which could've been prevented by a human.
A big topic of debate when discussing the safety risks is the ethical dilemma. When the car is faced with a choice between running into a group of pedestrians in order to save its passengers and vice versa, will it be able to make the ethical choice?
Another factor that needs to be considered when thinking about the safety risks with autonomous cars are sensor failures. Sensor failures often happen during drastic weather changes - whether it's a heavy snowfall or stormy conditions, drastic weather changes can have an impact on the cars ability to judge these and drive during these circumstances.
Unaffordable - High-technology vehicles and equipment are expensive as there's a large amount of money for research and development as well as choosing the finest and most functional materials needed - whether thats the software, modified vehicle parts or sensors, making the cost of having an autonomous car a lot higher than others.
Once driverless cars eventually hit the market, they will have restrictive price points for quite some time. For the new technology to become more mainstream, it will be up to the manufactures to find a way to make the price a lot more affordable for the general public.
There are many different companies along side of Tesla that are paving the future for complete autonomous vehicles including;
Five AI - are a company that develops an autonomous vehicle software, designed to drive vehicles without the need for a human behind the wheel. Their software uses multiple sensors around the vehicle, providing a view of the environment to be able to predict, plan and navigate all around Europe.
Apple - Amongst many rumours, Apple is definitely working on an autonomous automotive project. Although the company haven't stated much themselves, they continue to hire for roles that seem to specialise in automotive development. Will there be a physical Apple Car? Tech we can integrate into our own vehicles or hardware and software licensed to third-party car makers? Or could it be a service, run by Apple to transport users around in driverless cars?
Waymo - Waymo is a self-driving technology company, their mission is to make driving safe and easy for people. They improve transportation by building software and sensor technology developed in Google's labs since 2009. In October 2015, they managed to achieve the world's first fully self-driving trip on public roads in a car without a steering wheel or pedals.
Ultimately, even though driverless vehicles aren't going to be on the roads anytime soon, they're definitely being prepared for the fast adoption. As with any type of new technology, it comes with plenty of different advantages and disadvantages - but ultimately, it's down to the individual to decide whether or not to go ahead and invest in such a big thing.
Here at Talented Recruitment Group, we would love to know what your thoughts are on this debate. Do you think complete autonomous vehicles are efficient enough to take over the roads or is it a big risk to the world?