May 31, 2016 at 9:11 AM
It is the stereotype of every science fiction world. Robotic cars driving through the suburbs and major cities, with their human passengers; but no drivers.
Yet now, with the rapid progress of advanced technology, the automated driverless cars are no longer a wishful fancy.
The UK Government has announced that in 2017, driverless cars will be trialled on motorways, based on the electronic pods currently in use at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. The news has been met with mixed emotions: general feelings of excitement tinged with dread for what it means for the future. Cars have become such an integral part of our transport system, that even the slightest change in them has a dramatic effect on the general public. So, what does this great leap in development mean for us? Should we embrace these changes, or will reality prove them to be riddled with complications and dangers?
To make an informed decision on driverless cars, we must have a basic understanding of how they work.
The driverless or autonomous car is a vehicle that can sense it's environment and control navigating without any human input. Advanced control systems are used to identify obstacles, signs, and paths; and a combination of radar, GPS, and other systems allow the vehicle to detect it's surroundings and move accordingly. The result is that a car which can safely navigate roads without fatigue or distraction becoming an issue.
So, for those of us daunted by the idea of a robotic car taking over our control of the roads, what are the advantages of the proposed autonomous car?
- Everyone can go where they want, easily and in safety; regardless of their abilities to drive.
- The growing elderly population or those with sight impairments can retain their independence.
- Improved time management. The time we take commuting to locations can be better spent on other matters.
- Road traffic accidents can be dramatically reduced. Human error causes 94% of accidents in the US alone.
- Environmental benefits. Reduced congestion and pollution will make dramatic improvements to many major cities across the globe.
The competition is rife worldwide as to who will be the first to introduce autonomous cars to the roads. Google have already established a range of Self Driving cars that are being road tested and patented. Proposed regulations governing driverless cars are already being looked at in the USA, Europe and parts of Asia, and current online forecasts predict that autonomous cars could be made available on the market as early as 2020.
Personal opinions set aside, there can be no doubt that autonomous cars are set to make major transformations to our commuting ways. While the title of the driverless car might appear intimidating, the advantages of this great technology, properly tested, cannot be ignored.