Are you looking forward to a future of driverless cars?
Autopilot has been used to assist pilots flying air crafts for a long time. It is also used in spaceships and missiles.
Navigational technology like this is constantly evolving and we are now on the brink of developing driverless cars.
How would they work?
Driverless cars need a huge amount of complicated technology to make their journeys. Firstly they need to know where they are going. They do this by using a GPS system, just like a satnav, and analysing the options to decide on the best route from A to B.
But simply knowing the quickest way isn’t nearly enough. Driverless cars also use radar, lasers and cameras to analyse their surrounding environment. This tells them if there are obstacles in their path, traffic jams up ahead, road signs or changes in conditions.
The cars then need to be able to use this information to make decisions, like whether to slow down or move into a different lane. This is done by a super-smart computer system that controls the steering, braking and accelerating. Perfecting this system so that it always makes the right judgement is the main challenge facing designers of these cars.
Are they safe?
Most of our main concerns about driverless cars are whether or not they are safe. One great advantage is that they would eliminate accidents caused by human error. Computers can’t drink drive or fall asleep at the wheel.
Driverless cars also have faster reaction times than humans, and are programmed to always keep safe distances between vehicles. Generally, it’s agreed that they would greatly reduce road accidents.
They’re by no means perfect though. Google has admitted that its self-driving car has been involved in some minor accidents.
What are the benefits?
Makers of driverless cars say that increased road safety is the main advantage of the technology, but there are lots of other benefits too. They are greener than standard cars, thanks to the computers’ ability to drive more efficiently. They know where traffic jams are so can avoid stopping and starting over and over, which uses unnecessary fuel.
Those who are unable to drive due to limited mobility or impaired vision will be able to get around using driverless cars. This will help the lives of thousands of people, who will no longer need to rely on others for their transportation.
What are the issues?
Many questions about driverless cars remain unanswered. One is whether they will be able to make ethical decisions. For example, if a person stepped into the road in front of one, would it swerve out of the way and endanger the lives of the passengers? What about if an animal was in the road?
There is also concern over who would be held responsible if something did go wrong. As the drivers aren’t in charge of the vehicle, accidents could be seen to be the manufacturer’s fault.
Finally, experts are worried that the cars could be hacked. As they are controlled by computers and connected to the internet, it could be possible for outsiders to break into the system.
Until these issues have been addressed, it is unlikely that self-driving cars will be taking over the roads any time soon.