DRIVERLESS CARS – NO MORE A FICTION IT’S REALITY
Driverless Cars or Automation Cars or Self-Driving Cars – The future never looks exactly like we imagine. Visions of the 21st century that were conceived in the 20th tend to get some things right and others very wrong.
The Transportation Department has made its first formal policy statement about autonomous vehicles. Such cars are still in prototype stages, but AI experts are trying to keep pace with the rapid advances in this area. (1)
Bringing Out The Array
The array of automated technologies already present in today’s models – features that we no longer find remarkable, such as lane departure and blind-spot warnings, self-parking, self-adjusting speed controls, and vehicle stability systems.
The concept of a car driven by computers makes some people nervous because of its novelty. But the technology is a continuum, not a binary choice between control by a human driver or by a machine.
We can look upward for analogous situations. We don’t yet have pilotless planes. Even drones have human pilots; They just happen to be on the ground, rather than in the aircraft. But modern planes are heavily automated and, as a result, are safer than ever. (2)
GPS and advanced mapping have made “controlled flight into terrain,” which is another name for flying into a mountain or other obstacle, extremely rare. Advances in instrument landing systems make it possible to take off and land in weather that would have prohibited flying not too long ago. Without removing the human element entirely, technological advances have mitigated a lot of the risks of flying.
Calculations of future experience
The same is also true of highway travel. Ever try hunting for a tiny street sign on a dark road late at night? Or navigating an area unknown to you without a passenger to read a map? It’s a lot easier and safer when your car’s navigation system tells you exactly where to turn. Adaptive cruise control keeps me at a safe following distance, slowing when I get too close to the car ahead of me. Lane-departure warning systems can tell a driver when she’s drifting, though, in my experience, there are still a lot of false alarms. This is not to mention built-in computers that diagnose engine trouble and call for assistance in case of an accident, or the standard of including a backup camera in new vehicles.
Just as with pilots, human drivers always pose a risk for error – and computers always risk malfunction. But as highway speeds increase in some parts of the country, and as summer ushers in a season of family road trips, technology helps human drivers navigate their routes as safe as possible.
Do entirely driverless cars seem far fetched? Maybe. But if I fly into Orlando’s sprawling airport, a driverless train is going to take me from the gate to the main terminal building. Nobody seems to see anything odd about it. We all take cruise control for granted these days; semi-autonomous cars are another step down the existing path. Fully autonomous cars are a few steps farther. Like any new technology, it will take getting used to. (3)
Full speed ahead on the newest technologies. They will get us where we want to go more reliably and safely than ever.
(Image credits: Shutterstock)
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