Last updated on May 16, 2017 at 02:42 pm
21st Century Chauffeurs
Back in 2010, Google announced it had been developing self-driving cars in line with its efforts to map every road on the planet. Since then, Google’s prototypes have racked up over 300,000 accident-free miles on the road. Google even filmed a blind man in the driver’s seat of one of their cars, running errands without a hitch.
Carmaker Volvo predicts it will be able to offer crash-free driving capabilities in all of its cars by 2020. In fact, many pundits out there now say that cars equipped with technology that drive themselves some or all of the time will be in mass production by the 2020s. Others are more skeptical, saying that widespread use of driverless cars won’t be here for another 50 years or more.
Baby you can drive (and park) my car. Either way, automobiles are increasingly becoming less manual and more driven by technology, including “black box” systems that record pre-accident data, rear cameras that display what’s behind you and side mirrors that indicate when another vehicle is in your blind spot. Many cars already feature automated driving technologies that help you parallel park or maintain safer distances in heavy traffic.
And since heavy traffic congestion is the cause of many accidents, driverless cars could also help reduce both accidents and the resulting traffic jams.
Driverless car technologies such as in-car navigation, wireless broadband and entertainment systems mean that drivers will become more connected on the road and off. This could reduce crimes such as carjacking and vehicle theft.
New driverless technologies raise interesting ethical- and insurance-related questions as well: who’s at fault in an accident, for example? What about our personal privacy?
When human drivers make critical decisions quickly about how to respond to a dangerous situation, for example, whether or not to drive off a bridge in order to avoid crashing into a school bus filled with children, there is an ethical aspect involved. It remains to be seen how that decision-making process be will embedded in an autonomous vehicle.
Longer reads about the driverless car trend:
- The future, coming soon: self-driving cars mainstream by 2025 – The Wall Street Journal
- The future of the car: clean, safe and it drives itself – The Economist
- Look, no hands: One day every car may come with an invisible chauffeur – The Economist
- Driverless cars will make your city vast and boring – Quartz
- Governor wants Michigan to approve driverless cars – USA Today
- Will auto insurers survive their collision with driverless cars? – Forbes
- The battles ahead over driverless cars – NPR (audio & transcript)
- Will driverless cars solve our energy problems – or just create new ones? The Washington Post
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