If you had asked us a decade ago if we could envisage robot cars on the road, we would probably have laughed. However, they are really not that far away from being a reality. Self-driving cars are the future and next big step in driving experiences.
Major car manufacturers are paving the way to a new car evolution. Apple, Google and Uber have acquired the technology to create ride-sharing services and driverless cars. While the desire to have such fantastic technology is abundant, the doubts and worries this technology currently present need to be resolved before we can realistically allow self-driving cars to drive on our roads.
What is the technology behind self-driving cars?
In order for the cars to be safe, secure and free running they need to adhere to a number of security measures. All self-driving cars will use video camera technology, radar and lidar sensors, and have an overall artificial intelligence system.
Out of these three security measures, the integral artificial intelligence system is possibly the most important. This device enables the car to control itself from a robotic system within the car's core. The system is able to sense its surroundings, process the visual data and determine how to avoid collisions, operate the car controls such as the steering and brake, and use GPS to track the cars current location and destination.
Within the artificial system, the use of radar, cameras and lidar sensors all work to produce a smooth ride. Lidar sensors emit light waves in all directions which reflect from objects and return to the sensor, measuring the distance between the car and the object.
The light bounces off the sensor millions of times in a single second and the light waves create an instant, constantly updated 3D map that will spot obstacles instantaneously. This really is cutting edge technology, and it is almost fully developed.
Why should you buy a self-driving car?
Aside from the obvious ideal ease and efficiency for yourself, self-driving cars are equally helpful in other areas.
They are likely to reduce accidents when fully incorporated into real-life situations because they reduce the risk of human error and other complications if used appropriately.
The cars will also be more secure because without a driver you have more space for cameras and technology, meaning any potential incidents that might occur are fully recorded and assessed.
What are the main drawbacks for self-driving cars?
During the development of any new technology, there are understandably some problems. Technology often fails us and where self-driving cars are concerned, this could cause serious accidents, even death if the technology is not 100% secure. In fact, last year Uber saw a general increase in accidents with their driverless cars, including one serious collision that resulted in a fatality.
There is also the problem with minor things like GPS route, for those of us who prefer to take a certain journey every day to work, for example.
Hiring a car could be problematic if you are not aware of the cars specific driving abilities. When you go to hire a car nowadays, you can test it and see its drivability, but who knows how this could change with newer driverless models.
Above all else, will it ever be totally safe? Will we ever produce a vehicle that ensures safety at all times? Only time will tell.