There have been a rash of developments for driver-less cars, also known as autonomous cars. Recently, Tesla introduced many owners to a gimmicky feature called “summon”. They’ve also equipped many of their vehicles with “auto-pilot”, though if YouTube is to be believed, there is much work to be done. Ford and Google have signed agreements to work towards developing autonomous cars. Even Uber, the bane of taxi companies and municipal governments worldwide, long ago unveiled their, now defunct, entry into the autonomous car market.
New and scary
It has all caused a bit of a stir. Many high end vehicles are actually already equipped with technology that allows them to drive by themselves. While not completely autonomous, they are very interesting to drive. There is something unnerving, unnatural almost, as a driver, to take your hands off the steering wheel while driving along the freeway. It’s astonishing to witness the technology take over and keep the car, more or less, centred in the lane. This technology is definitely in its infancy, but considering the pace at which automotive innovation typically takes, it’s progressing at lightning pace. That pace is frightening to many automotive traditionalists, but exciting for many of the industry disruptors.
Consumers, the average buyer, should be taking note as well. The eventual takeover of the autonomous car is going to change how humanity drives. Implications of widespread autonomous vehicle use are wide ranging, but they shouldn’t scare us. As some have pointed out, there are privacy concerns. Others have questioned the impact on how many new cars are bought. Pretty much everybody questions how autonomous cars will handle moral dilemmas. None of these changes should scare us, however. They should spur a conversation.
Removing the human element
Autonomous cars will soon be the solution to several major issues that plague today’s roads. Currently, driving is a very dangerous form of transportation. Over 32,000 people were killed in 2014 on US roads alone. The IIHS reports that 94% of those accidents were due to human error. Vehicle related issues accounted for 2%. People are still driving drunk and killing people. Almost half of passengers still refuse to wear seat belts. Autonomous vehicles will bring drunks home safely. Autonomous vehicles won’t depart until all seat belts are fastened. As more autonomous vehicles are on the road, accident numbers will drop. But more importantly, accidents will be far less likely to be fatal. Deaths will drop, and driving, on the whole, will become safer.