18 Nov, 2014 image

A DRIVING FORCE OF THE FUTURE: SELF-DRIVING CARS KEEP HUMANS SAFE

We’ve seen it before in sci-fi films, but today, technologic developments are driving autonomous vehicles out of our imaginations and onto our roads. Within the next six years, the world is projected to bear witness to a myriad of experiments and opportunities related to self-driving cars. By the year 2030, autonomous cars could represent about 25 percent of all passenger vehicles in mature markets, according to a Gartner’s Maverick analysis conducted earlier this year.

Human error alone causes upwards of 90 percent of vehicle-related accidents, from a lack of attention to impaired driving. Two in three Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related car crash in their lives, a completely preventable number, and a climbing number of crashes can be directly linked to texting while driving. Perhaps using robots as our designated drivers and personal chauffeurs isn’t such a bad idea. Self-driving cars have the ability to sense faster and react more efficiently than human drivers. Most prototypes have a 360-degree view around the car, GPS software and object sensors.

Today, many car manufacturers are recognizing the potential value in the autonomous vehicle market. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Google and Nissan are all seeking permit grants from the government to test their prototypes. California, in particular, has seen a growing number of permits for self-driving car practice. In September, the state decided that a public road test would be required before receiving a permit.

Google has been working to perfect a self-driving car since 2009. Previously, the company bolted new technology on to existing car models, but today, Google is working to build autonomous vehicles from the ground up to customize and create a self-driving car. This new Google car has sensors that increase the field of vision to up to two football fields. Through custom computer software and backup safety features this new model has capabilities that would have otherwise been restricted by pre-existing models. In 2011, a Google AV crash was spotlighted, but interestingly, an investigation into the crash revealed that it occurred while under human operation.

Skeptics of autonomous abilities have debated that robotic vehicles must be perfect before being implemented on the roads. However, by simply replacing human drivers with robot-drivers, thousands of lives are projected to be saved each year.  Autonomous vehicles do not have to have flawless driving records to merit making the switch, they only have to perform better than their human counterparts.  A reality that some experts claim, is not too far off.

While AVs could potentially create a safer, cleaner world, the technology isn’t quite there yet. Weather conditions still show to have an influence on vision and sensor capabilities, proving that weather-resistant technologies will need further development before the cars are placed on the roads.

While autonomous vehicles still have a long road ahead, the technology will undoubtedly reinvent the automotive industry. If one thing’s for sure, the race to create the first fully-autonomous passenger vehicle is on.

 

By: Erica Allaby

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