Self-Driving Cars

In October 2016, Tesla Motors made the prediction that by the end of 2017, one of their vehicles would drive in autonomous mode (i.e. without a human driver) the 2,800 miles from Los Angeles to New York.

Self-driving cars hold the promise to reshape society in numerous ways including faster commute times, fewer accidents and possibly even more spare time.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of all car accidents result from human error.

With their 360 degree sensors working in partnership with artificial intelligence software, self-driving cars communicate with one another in a 'hive-like' fashion to work in concert to drive safely and also share information, allowing the collective to learn from incidents, increasing safety over time.

Image credits:

Image credits:

In addition to enhanced safety as a result of decreased human error, self-diving cars promise to offer faster commutes. These vehicles will be able to travel faster thanks to the group communication capability, complex sensors and sophisticated technology.

Autonomous vehicles also enable young children, the disabled and elderly to gain access to places and services that otherwise may not be as readily accessible. 

And, since humans will not longer have to drive from place to place, they can relax, read, rest, study, talk, text or watch television in their vehicle. Combined with anticipated reduced commutes and automated pick up and drop off services for kids and others unable to drive, this could equate to more leisure time as well as a change in how our cars look and function inside. (Bring on beds, tables and entertainment systems!)

But will cost, the 'love of driving' and lack of confidence in technology keep most people from being able to afford a self-driving car of their own?

Some experts estimate that making automobiles autonomous will only increase the cost of a vehicle by $10,000. And, for many who endure the drudgery of a daily commute or hauling kids to and from activities, driving has become a chore. As such, the self-driving car may actually revitalize the love of driving for many.

As for the technology, there is a proposed rating system for self driving cars VS human driven vehicles. This data will display with hard facts how much safer these techy smart cars will be than the average person. 

The National Safety Council reported 19,100 motor vehicle fatalities in the first six months of 2016.

Several manufacturers are developing technology for self-driving cars, including Google, Apple and Tesla. Many advances are expected in the next few years but much of the foundational components already exist.

The basics of most self-driving cars include:

  • On-board computer uses a neural network to process LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and radar inputs
  • LIDAR sensors using pulses of light to map nearby objects and cars
  • GPS combined with measurements from onboard meters provided advanced location accuracy
  • Hi-def cameras provide wide-range visibility, detecting and identifying lights and road signs
  • Forward-facing radar detects other vehicles during inclement weather conditions

Once people get used to this new technology and either purchase their own self-driving cars or use autonomous rideshare services, it is predicted the roads will become increasingly safer. And, riders will become less skeptical (as were many initial riders of the very first motor vehicles we are sure).