We have mobiles, we don’t need to leave our homes to be social or be social on the go through our mobile devices, and we don’t even have to leave our sofa to change the TV channels! Soon we won’t even have to physically drive our cars, driverless cars will eventually be coming to a road near you.
Cars already have lots of sensors to detect just about everything from the emissions on your car to your car’s temperature. Your car breaks down, these days it will have to be hooked up to computers to find out what the fault is. It almost seems natural that a driverless cars would be the next step in the evolution of computerised autonomous cars.
Some driverless cars don’t have a steering wheel or brake pedals others still contain these key pieces of equipment that are essential to driving a car manually. Crazy I hear you say? Well it is hear, Google have done it so have Honda and BMW, with tests already being approved in America states California, Nevada and Florida. Similar tests will be carried out on UK roads from January 2015.
The idea behind this innovation is to cut the number of road accidents, majority are caused by human error whereas driverless cars would maintain the correct speed limits, safe distances from other vehicles and not become distracted. This level of safety should also help lower the cost of car insurance.
Using wireless technology cars would be able to communicate with traffic lights so they know when to stop / go. I was curious to know how these cars would handle zebra crossings, other than the blinking orange lights there is no wireless technology involved, right?
- Driver sees pedestrian wants to cross the road at a crossing
- Driver stops car until pedestrian has crossed
- Driver then makes the car move again.
Don’t worry, you can still safely cross the road at a zebra crossing and not worry about a driverless car failing to stop. The cars will use a radar and a camera to detect if someone is waiting to cross, I wonder how the car will cope with someone who is just loitering near a zebra crossing. We’ve all experienced it, slowing down at a zebra crossing thinking someone is waiting to cross and they don’t move because they were just ‘hanging around’.
The driverless car is all very ‘I am Robot’, in the film drivers had the option to either manually drive their cars or switch to autopilot. Despite the positives I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel handing over complete control to a machine, I would be relying on a form AI to get me from A to B in one piece. These cars are essentially a computer on wheels, computers can be hacked or given viruses. If a car decided to go to the dark side can the human driver regain control of the car? Or if the car becomes too smart, stages a revolt and kidnaps its passengers until demands have been met? OK, the last part could be a little far-fetched but nothing is fool proof, especially technology. We only have to look at mobile phones, they at one point got smaller now are bigger and thinner and can be used as mini computers but do they last as long as the Nokia 8810? This phone only had a little chip in it and was used by me for a few years time, then passed onto a brother who then passed it onto the youngest sister when he had finished with it. It is unlikely some of the newer phones I have had would lasted for that same period of time. So what does that say about the predicted life span of an autonomous car?
Then we have the ‘robots are taking our jobs’ scenario. Will driverless cars replace our much loved and sometimes loathed taxi drivers who like to share little anecdotes and stories of who has been in their taxi? What about chauffeurs, who will open the doors for their passengers? It all just lacks a certain of ambiance that you can only with having a human driver. Until the time comes when you car can speak and have a conversation with its passengers.
It won’t be long before we are driving hover cars and roads will be up in the sky, imagine the disruption the roads works would be like! Until then prepare yourself for the possibility of being driven around by a computer on wheels.