So far, we already have semi-autonomous vehicles on the market. By this, I’m referring to cruise control, automatic braking, automatic gear selection, self-parking and anti-lane drift. Even lower-end and midrange models are starting to include these features and I have no doubt that these are a leap in the right direction. So, the next step is to give the car more (and eventually all of) the control; steering, accelerating, braking and indicating. So, here are my thoughts…
I’ve always told myself that I’m about the future rather than the past; I’m always open-minded about what that future holds, particularly the parts that will have a direct impact on my life, like the car I drive (or don’t). I am always excited to see new products and I am therefore very upbeat about driverless cars. I do think they will play a big part in our future.
I Love Them
Firstly, as much as I enjoy driving, I do like the idea that on a long-haul journey I can sit back and relax; it’s like being on a bus or train, but without the other people. Your own personal taxi. Nice. I can get comfortable with that. Not to mention, you wouldn’t have any worries about driving in foreign places- no more “am I in the right lane?”, “am I going the right way?”, “wait, what did the sat-nav just say?” – it’s all taken care of for you. I personally wouldn’t drive in London, it’s crazy there, but if my car could do it for me I might reconsider. So, comfort and peace of mind – tick.
Next, as every car would be able to talk to every other car (via the “Internet of Things”), they would all be aware of the position of any one car at any one time. For example, if two cars were planning to travel down the M25 towards the Dartford Crossing simultaneously, they’d know that before they even got on the M25. Therefore, if so many cars were going to be on a particular road at one time, some would recalculate their route to avoid said road, therefore reducing congestion and therefore also reducing journey times. Traffic would be minimised. Also, cars would avoid traffic automatically, if it did occur at any point on the route ahead.
Leading on from that, as the cars could communicate, they would be aware of: how far they are from each other, the speed at which they are accelerating, if they are breaking, if they are about to turn off or change lane, etc. Therefore, the cars would be able to avoid accidents. No doubt, a computer can make a slicker judgment than a human. So, huge potential to decrease journey time and increase safety – tick.
With these boosts in efficiency and therefore human productivity, these cars will obviously be great for cities. Cities obviously have a lot of traffic in a small area, so using the pool of information to determine the most efficient journey for every car (in real time) is pretty important. Furthermore, it would mean emergency services would get priority and the cars would find the safest, most efficient way to let the emergency vehicle pass. In a smart city everything will talk to every other thing and cars play a big part in that.
I Hate Them
As great as they sound, I know there’s going to be negative effects too. One of those being that I enjoy driving. Driving can be really fun and it’s a great form of stress relief too. Driving fast down an open road is a rapture – don’t take that away from me! Maybe there will still be the option to use the steering wheel and pedals if I so desired?
Plus, they’re ugly. You only have to look at Google’s prototype or Mercedes-Benz’s concept car to see that. I’d be a bit embarrassed to ride in those. This isn’t a sci-fi film, this is now and the near future. People really care about their appearance, why can’t the manufacturers make something attractive?
Lastly, my biggest worry about driverless cars: Unresponsiveness. Has your phone ever frozen? PC ever crashed? I bet. Our devices, regardless of how good they are, crash sometimes. Obviously it’s a little more serious in this case, as a virtual crash in the computer of a driverless car would lead to a physical crash. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that scares the s*** out of me. Sure it’s all tested, but I bet iOS 8 was tested before that got released too, and that still came out as a mess. I bet Ubisoft test their games before launching them, but they have a reputation for being messy too. My guess is that there will be a back up system in case of emergencies, but I’m left questioning “what if…” until I hear more about it.
Iron Out The Creases…
All in all, I think it will be a while before driverless cars take off because the manufacturers need to iron out the creases (of which there’s plenty), but when they become polished products and society & infrastructure adapts to them, maybe a few years after the initial consumer release, that’s when driverless cars will be an improvement over our current vehicles.
There is so much more I could ramble on about but I’ve tried to condense this to my most important points (for now), however the comments are open if you have a different opinion – I’m always up for discussion. Meanwhile, you can go check out my blog about smart cars; which are already starting to hit the consumer market.