There are a few things we can all agree upon, and one of them being that there is nothing cooler than self-driving cars. Their practicality and feasibility are a different matter altogether. But just imagine, driving down the motorway in the shiny autonomous vehicle where the computer minds the wheel, and you take in the sights and sounds on the road.
That’s where the dream ends, unfortunately. Right now the self-driving cars are only good at driving safely on main roads and motorways. Coming off the slip road would be your responsibility as the driver, and if you have fallen asleep in the car, you are in trouble.
Despite these issues, there is no denying the fact that driverless cars are the future. Transportation companies, car manufacturers, and tech buffs are rushing towards the self-driving car industry. Last year’s high-profile court case involving Uber and Waymo is a classic example of the fact that the hype is real. Self-driving trade secrets are worth billions and everyone’s interested!
So, what is standing in the way to the future full of self-driving cars? What can possibly go wrong between now and that future?
Challenges of Autonomous Driving
Self-driving cars are becoming common. But then, so are the accidents these cars are involved in.
In 2017, 27 accidents involving self-driving cars were reported. And there have already been 4 more accidents in 2018. The surprising news is that these accidents were self-reported by the companies that make and test these cars, and so far, none of these incidents were really the car’s fault.
Yet, as the number of these cars multiplies, a serious discussion has begun on their shortcomings. Experts agree that these are potential problem points related to self-driving cars.
- Autonomous cars make humans nervous. This means that the other drivers on the road start behaving cautiously when they spot one of these vehicles. In fact, they may become so conscious of the auto driving cars, they may altogether forget to be careful of people driven vehicles, misread their intentions and end up in a collision.
- Trusting these machines has become a struggle in itself. Take for example passenger aircrafts and the fact that these planes are very capable of flying by themselves, and we still have people piloting them just for the psychological reassurance of the passengers. The future is not far when self-driving cars will be truly autonomous and able to navigate the most challenging of terrains without human guidance.
- Another issue is the regulatory environment for these cars. So far there is free reign for the manufacturers of self-driving cars, but the controls won’t remain this permissive in the next decade or so. California, Florida, and Arizona have quite lenient rules that allow the testing and operations of these vehicles. However, the legislation to legalize it across the country has been held up in Congress indefinitely.
- And finally, the biggest question is: will autonomous cars even become smart enough to be 100% self-sufficient, or is it all just wishful thinking?
The Next Wave of Self-Driving Cars
There are six levels of auto autonomy according to transportation experts. The higher the level, the more independent a vehicle is. For example, at level 6 humans will be expected to do absolutely nothing to guide the car and ensure safe driving. The automobile will be equipped with sophisticated sensors and cameras, it will drive very well as governed by the advanced algorithms. This level 6 is the ultimate goal for self-driving cars.
Level 2, this is where the technology is at the moment. The driver is expected to take charge of several important aspects of driving, and the car is only trusted to drive on motorways and main roads. Researchers are optimistic that level 6 autonomy isn’t far away, but for now, the drivers must remain alert in self-driving cars too.
Last year, Tesla surprised the world with a fully electric semi-truck with some impressive autopilot capabilities. Elon Musk successfully silenced the detractors of electric trucks and showed off the impressive self-driving skills as well as beautifully futuristic looks. The semiautonomous technology is complemented by automatic braking and lane keeping capabilities.
The Future Is Now
Ambitious research continues to find new avenues for improvement in the self-driving technology. The interest in the field is genuine because it has some practical applications for public transportation as well.
Next Urban Mobility is priming itself to take over the world as the ‘Netflix of Transport.’ It is a small company that is busy creating a high-tech hub that will integrate cars, bikes, and public transport as well as delivery services in smart, data-driven ways. The company is trying to make owning cars an obsolete and old-fashioned idea, just like Netflix has completely eliminated the need to accumulate hundreds of DVDs.
With self-driving cars at the center of their transport revolution, Next Urban Mobility is all set to make transport woes a thing of the past.
Along with gaining complete autonomy, self-driving cars will also be capable of keeping a look at the passengers inside. Technology is being developed to make cars capable of monitoring who’s inside the car, what they are doing as well as the road around. And in case the passengers or driver is doing something they shouldn’t, for example, drunk driving with the autopilot off, the car will buzz them, alert them or even take over the driving.
It is expected that within the next 10 years, cars with artificial intelligence will hit the road. These cars will have access to massive stores of data to help them navigate and take full advantage of the 5G mobile boom.
More research is needed to map the roads and more importantly manage this data to effectively eliminate useless information and provide cars with the info they need at the moment to make a driving decision. The wave has already begun, and it is very fascinating to watch the progression happen at the speed of light.
Elon Musk is very sure that autonomous electric driving vehicles are future. These cars have already been heralded as the wave of the future, and thanks to their exciting new developments, the future is almost here!