Self-driving car technology is quickly approaching the mainstream of daily life, but has some serious obstacles to dodge before making it to the finish line. Self-driving cars need to earn public trust to find their place in the motor vehicle world. What are they up against and where is the technology today? Learn more about the current and future state of self-driving cars on the roads of America.
Understanding the Levels of Automation
When you talk about self-driving cars, it is important to understand that there various levels automation involved. TechEmergence.com provides the following data:
- Level 1 automation: some small steering or acceleration tasks are performed by the car without human intervention, but everything else is fully under human control
- Level 2 automation: is like advance cruise control or original autopilot system on some Tesla vehicles, the car can automatically take safety actions but the driver needs to stay alert at the wheel
- Level 3 automation: still requires a human driver, but the human is able to put some “safety-critical functions” to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. This poses some potential dangers as humans pass the major tasks of driving to or from the car itself, which is why some car companies (Ford included) are interested in jumping directly to level 4
- Level 4 automation: is a car that can drive itself almost all the time without any human input, but might be programmed not to drive in unmapped areas or during severe weather. This is a car you could sleep in.
- Level 5 automation: means full automation in all conditions
Reducing Auto-Related Deaths
One of the main driving factors for self-driving car technology is the lives that will be saved when they become more mainstream. According to Money.com, in just 2016 alone, there were 37,461 auto-related deaths. Self-driving cars will be programmed with features to help prevent accidents from occuring for both pedestrians and drivers.
Ethics: Pedestrians or Drivers
People are asking, “How will the artificial intelligence of self-driving cars interact with human drivers and pedestrians. How will a car cue a pedestrian that they can cross safely. Can a self-driving car detect that a pedestrian wants to cross the road? To garner public trust in self-driving cars consumers are asking for a way for self-driving cars to communicate with the road-user, reports the Guardian.
Google and Waymo on the Scene
To help encourage safety, Google brought an idea to the table- softer cars. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, patented shape-shifting cushion technology designed to soften when pedestrians or cyclists get a certain distance from the car. If a collision did occur, the softening tech would cause a more gentle impact in a pedestrian/cyclist accident. (Important to note that vehicle to vehicle collisions would NOT cause the car softening so that drivers could be protected.)
Waymo and Nissan are also suggesting text-based displays to help communicate with pedestrians, intention indicators and audible alerts.
LIDAR and the Google Car
To help encourage vehicle-pedestrian-driver safety the Google Car relies on a rotating roof-top LIDAR camera and various range sensors. The LIDAR camera offers data on distance between objects, and upcoming road hazards (pedestrians, motorists, cyclists). Radar on the front and back of the car will be able to track the activity of other vehicles nearby.
Self-Driving Features That Are on the Road Now
Today, you can buy a Cadillac, Volvo, Tesla, Audi, and even a Nissan that will do some of your driving for you. But the technology isn’t where it needs to be yet for drivers not to be alert and involved. Drivers seem to expect more from their cars than they can actually deliver. A recent Tesla accident involved a driver claiming their car was on “autopilot” which caused the accident to occur. Drivers will need to understand how much their car can really do before getting behind the wheel and still remain alert and attentive.
Fully Self-Driving Cars are Still in the Testing Stage
Partially self-driving cars have been on the roads for a few years now, but fully autonomous technology is not quite there yet. The BMW 7 Series feature automated parking, and can even be controlled remotely.
Have More Questions About Self-Driving Cars?
If you have questions about self-driving cars, you are not alone. Come into Scotts Fort Collins Auto and we can help answer any specific questions you may have. Deciding on purchasing a self-driving car begins with having all the facts. Staying safe on the road in a world of self-driving cars also requires that you understand some of the technology behind the wheel and inside the wheel! Call Scotts Fort Collins Auto today at (970) 682-4202 for a tune-up and a discussion on the future of self-driving cars.