There has been so much talk of self-driving cars since manufacturers first started working on them in 2008 that many consumers have become impatient. When will self-driving cars become available? When can we expect them to be the norm on our nation’s highways?
This excitement is well founded. Just think of all the free time a self-driving car would grant you on your morning and evening commutes. You could read or catch up on work if your car could drive itself. Of course, increased roadway safety is the most anticipated benefit. Flawless self-driving cars would cut out the human error element that, according to Wired, causes 90 percent of crashes and 35,000 lives lost on America’s roadways every year.
As the anticipation for self-driving cars mounts, debunk these widely held misconceptions to separate fact from fiction.
The purpose of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is to aid drivers in making decisions for a few seconds at a time. Parking assist kicks on during an attempt at parallel parking. Emergency brakes kick in at the last moment to stop an impending crash. Lane departure warning systems beep when the car temporarily veers out of its lane.
These systems are useful for helping drivers, but they can’t operate for hours on end the way a self-driving car must be capable of. This means a gradual evolution of ADAS isn’t possible. Road-legal fully autonomous cars must be competent from day one.
This assumption fails to take logistical concerns into account, such as large-scale mapping, severe weather, and vehicle maintenance requirements. Consumer cars can end up anywhere in the world, but the commercial market is much more stable and controlled. This is why we’re bound to see fleets of self-driving taxis, buses, delivery vehicles, and rental cars in select urban regions years before fully autonomous cars will become available for consumer purchase.
The slow adoption of classical car improvements—from airbags and anti-lock brakes to dashboard navigation systems—take years to trickle down from premium models to almost all cars on the road. It’s different with self-driving vehicles because this tremendous leap in technology releases the driver from the steering wheel, delivering the gift of time, a precious commodity you can never get back. This is why most industry experts believe the adoption of self-driving cars will be swift, and not just among premium buyers, once it hits the consumer market.
It’s a common misconception that self-driving cars operate based on classic “if-then” rules, or algorithms. However, the reality is that autonomous cars learn to recognize patterns and make decisions based on those patterns. This field of artificial intelligence allows self-driving cars to adapt to new situations as they arise.
Prototypes have been capturing the public’s imagination for years, but these demonstrations mask the fundamental shortcomings of self-driving cars. Yes, it’s possible for prototypes to drive a mapped route—whether at top speeds around a test track or from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States—but self-driving cars have a lot of maturing to do. They must be capable of handling all types of rare roadway scenarios before we’re ready to hand the driving over to them.
An elderly man begins crossing the street on the right while a child chases his ball in front of the car on the left. There’s not enough time to stop. Should the self-driving car swerve to the right and hit the elderly man, swerve to the left and hit the child, or go straight and hit both of them?
These types of “moral dilemmas” are popular talking points when discussing the foibles of self-driving cars. However, the concept of an autonomous car making ethical judgments is irrelevant because there is no right answer. Therefore, no court would find the vehicle’s programming legally or ethically at fault in this situation, just as it wouldn’t blame a driver.
The future will most certainly include self-driving cars, but until you have one parked in your driveway, you must keep up with maintaining and repairing your current vehicle. Scott’s Fort Collins Auto is the place to go! We offer preventative tune-ups and oil changes as well as repair services including engine replacement and transmission service. To schedule auto repair and maintenance in Fort Collins, please call us at (970) 682-4202 or set an appointment online.