Self-Driving Cars – The New Kid on the Block

Self-driving cars are here, so to speak. Some companies, such as Uber and Google, have been out testing their new babies, the ones that will pick you up and drop you off where you want to go with no unnecessary chit chat with a driver, because one doesn’t exist. Or at least it’s not supposed to. However, things have not been all smooth sailing for the cars as of late. So where are they going to go in the future? How is the technology working out at this point? Are we soon going to be taken over on the roads by cars that run off computers? Here are some fun facts about them.

They Aren’t Perfect…Right Now

Uber rolled out its autonomous vehicles this past week, and during its first day on the road and it ran a red light. Tesla has had more than one accident where their cars were said to be running autonomously (with their owners in the driver’s seat) and have crashed. Mercedes and Google have self-driving cars as well that they are currently testing out. So even though for the moment, you still need to be behind the wheel, you can have a car that kind of thinks for you. But if they are running red lights do you really want them driving for you?

What Does it Take to Create an Autonomous Vehicle

Just like the backup sensor in your vehicle, the autonomous car works the same way, but substantially more sophisticated. What the sensors and software do is detect pedestrians and bicyclists, vehicles, road obstructions and construction, and anything else in the way, from about two football fields away. That’s pretty far honestly.  They are also going to look for red lights, railroad crossings and stay out of blind spots. The cars are navigated by GPS, which if something is different it will update the map and software.  It also is supposed to predict the behavior of someone else on the road.  But have they seen other drivers, it’s rough as a physical person but now they want robots to do everything, which includes deciding which obstacle is less important. For example, if a ball rolls into the street, a human knows to anticipate a child or dog running after it, and I would rather crash my car into a tree than hit a child. But does a car think that way? Will it think that way? Now the cars ‘learn’ from human assistants who were in the car to help the system but it’s still basically driving on its own, and one day it will.

What the Future Looks Like

We may not have self driving cars now, at least mainstream, but for long trips this can definitely be a plus. Imagine taking a road trip from NY to FL, which is about an 18 hour drive if not more. You can now sit in the car, give it an address, and relax. For those who need to go on long trips alone, this might be the key. Self driving cars are the future, I would imagine especially in major cities like NY or Chicago or LA just because of the sheer volume of people as well as the want for ample public transportation. Maybe some countries who do not have the advanced road systems like the US might not adopt this, but major metro areas will likely be on the forefront of having entire fleets of electric, autonomous cars, thereby doing their part to also save the environment.

Technology is a sweet thing and one day I look forward to sitting in and being driven by my car.