This week, in my Diploma of Business class, we discussed driverless cars revolutionising our roads. Earlier this month, the world’s experts in driverless vehicle technology convened at the 2018 International Driverless Vehicle Summit in Adelaide and there were enthusiastic discussions held about the future of self-driving cars and how to put a human touch to these driverless vehicles! One of the hot topics discussed was the work happening at the University of Melbourne on ways to keep driverless traffic flowing and safe by simulating the behaviour and unwritten rules pedestrians and drivers use to negotiate traffic.
Every business wants to save money so that it can hopefully improve their profit margins. With a driverless vehicle, it is forecasted that you will save costs in several ways – insurance as technically there is only one “driver” rather than multiple drivers and when the vehicles are launched, they will be launched to the top safety standards which enables the insurers to offer a lower premium on the insurances; petrol as the car could be programmed to take the most fuel efficient route; and the employee that needs to get to his or her destination can do work en route instead of having to drive the vehicle. More information about Business courses.
Several companies can even co-share a vehicle to make full use of the vehicle and share the costs too! This can be a pro for companies who want the convenience of having a car but don’t use it often enough to justify the costs.
The history of self-driving cars has gone through quite a long and winding path to where it is today. Back in 1925, shortly after the birth of the motorcar did Francis Houdina demonstrate a radio-controlled car which he drove through the streets of Manhattan without anyone at the steering wheel. According to the New York Times, the radio-controlled vehicle can start its engine, shift gears, and sound its horn “as if a phantom hand were at the wheel”.
Almost a century later, in 2002, DARPA announces its grand challenge – offering researchers a $1 million prize if they can build an autonomous vehicle able to navigate 142 miles (approximately 228 kilometres) through the Mojave Desert. None of the 15 competitors were able to complete the course. The furthest entry made less than 8 miles in several hours before catching on fire.
In 2009, Google begins developing its own self-driving car in secret. Within a few years, Google announces that its autonomous cars have collectively driven 300,000 miles under computer control without one single accident occurring, and in 2014, it reveals a prototype of a driverless car without any of your traditional car features such as a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal. By the end of 2017, more than 2,000,000 miles had been driven by Google’s autonomous car.
By 2013, most of the major automotive companies started working on their own self-driving car technologies with Nissan committing to a launch date by announcing that it will release several driverless cars by the year 2020.
I personally love the idea! Imagine – no more pulling over for 15 minutes when you’re feeling tired, no more drink driving (gasps!) no more frustrations about not being able to park the car properly, and by the sounds of the technology gurus – less accidents can be expected thanks to precision technology!
The greatest concerns users have of driverless technology is about safety. They are understandably worried about the impacts a computer has if a child suddenly steps onto the road in front of a self-driving car.
In Perth, driverless buses that can safely navigate without any human interaction are being trialed and so far, there have been no accidents. Even with data showing curious children stepping in front of the vehicle (the bus stopped in time) and drivers driving recklessly around it (the vehicle accelerated and decelerated at the right moments).
An article published by Fortune.com in August of this year reported that whilst self-driving cars being on the road are a scary prospect for many, the leading cause of accidents still involve human errors.
A study of vehicle accidents conducted by Axios reports that in California, humans were mostly at fault in the vast majority of accidents involving self-driving cars. The study, conducted between 2014-2018 found that when the self-driving cars were in autonomous mode, 38 incidents occurred while moving. In all but one of those accidents, the accident were caused by humans. This study shows that perhaps we should be more afraid of us being on the roads than driverless cars being on the roads!