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The Future Isn’t as Clear as We Might Like

05.19.17 - Self-Driving Car

When it comes to the future of vehicles and what we’ll enjoy it’s easy to see that self-driving cars are the wave of what we’ll experience. It will take a few decades to rid the roads of all the cars that have actual drivers behind the wheel, but the fact is we’re heading to a time when computers are handling every maneuver on the road. These systems have already been proven to be much better drivers than we are, but they do have to possess human behaviors before we’re going to accept them fully. That’s not even the only hurdle; here are several questions we need to ask about these cars before we start seeing them sold publicly.

When can you let go of the wheel?

Right now we have cars that are semi-autonomous, which means they can handle more than just the cruise control system but also the steering of the vehicle. The systems of some cars allow you to let go of the wheel and they give you signals when the car has taken over control of the drive and you no longer have to grip the wheel.

How soon will we see fully autonomous cars on the road?

There are systems that come closer than ever to offering us a ride without the need of our input on straight roads with clear lane markers, but most of these systems are still a few years away from handling the driving when conditions change. Some companies have stated they will have fully autonomous cars on the road as soon as 2021.

Is your next car going to be fully autonomous?

Probably not. Right now there are cars that are capable of handling the driving duties you need to execute on clearly marked roads and these cars are becoming more advanced, but they still are limited by the driving conditions. The days of being able to plug in your destination and watch a movie while the car does all the work are still far off.

How does the car see the road?

The technology behind an autonomous vehicle uses sensors that make us of lasers, radar systems, cameras and GPS technology. All these system can work together much faster than we can and can see around and through items to detect and predict the actions that could take place. Using these systems allows a vehicle to avoid a collision and keep you safe on the road.

Are these cars good drivers?

While the reality of a fully computerized ride would probably make you sick with the number of lane changes and speed adjustments that are made, many of the systems offered today have a more human element to them. This means they don’t make sudden changes and attempt to follow normal human driving habits in regards to a smooth and easy ride.

Is driving a self- driving car legal?

The reality is there aren’t any laws against it as of yet. There are some laws going into effect and some states are allowing testing to take place as long as there is a driver in the control seat of the car when it’s on public roads. There will likely be more states that follow suite and allow testing as we move forward.

How safe is an autonomous car?

When the computers are continually working and the network is up and running these cars are much safer than we are as human drivers. There’s no emotion, tiredness, worry or daydreaming to dissuade the focus of these cars. This makes it so you should feel more comfortable in a computer driven car than one that’s driven by the best human driver you know.

What will driving be like in the future?

In the short term the vehicle-to-vehicle communication network will grow and communication could change the traffic flow significantly. The initial changes may come in the HOV lanes in areas of massive traffic patterns while the infrastructure to allow more self-driving cars on the road is developed. In the distant future fully autonomous driving is expected and could be done at much higher speeds than we can safely travel right now.

Can these cars avoid an obstacle in the road?

Not yet. Items that are moving such as another car, a pedestrian or an animal are easy to see and can be avoided by these cars but an actual on road obstacle doesn’t gain the same attention and can’t be avoided on the road. That’s one part that still needs to be worked out.

Will we become worse drivers?

Most likely we will become worse drivers the more we come to rely on these systems and our grandchildren might not ever need to learn to drive a car because they simply get in and the car takes them where they need to go. That is still a long ways off, but the better the systems in the vehicle are, the less we drive the way we should.

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