Everything You Need to Know About Self Driving Cars
One of the furthest advancements in convenience-based technology today is the fully self-driving car. Though they are not able to start mass producing them for public purchase, we are about to move into a technological era that will change our lives forever. There are companies however that currently testing them for business purposes (like Uber and Google). Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous cars are truly the future of technology both for personal and business use, however, how do they work? This article will go through the basics of how they work, what they will be used for and where we currently sit as far as when we’ll be able to own one goes. Let’s get into it.
A self-driving car works by being able to sense the environment around it with sensors. The sensors give distance between the car and the objects around it in order to keep the vehicle from running into anything. The cars use navigation (like Google Maps) to stick to a route set by a controller (a person) in order to get from one destination to another. The cars are able to read signage along their path in order to keep within the laws of the road. They do this with sensors and lasers. Mercedes was one of the first brands of vehicles to introduce self-driving technology with their S-Class series in 1999. The system was able to adjust to speeds automatically with the ability to keep itself within a suitable distance of the vehicle ahead of them. Since then Tesla has been putting a good deal of energy into self-driving technology, now offering what they refer to as their version 7 which is installed in some of their vehicles after 2015.
There are 5 levels of automation capabilities. 0 being the lowest and offering the least features. With level 0 there is a small amount of intervening but no real control over the vehicle. Level 1 allows the vehicle to control the speed but the driver controls the steering. Level 2 is considered “hands off” whereby the vehicle can control the steering wheel and the speed. Level 3 the driver doesn’t even have to look at the road, they can do other things like play on their phone and the vehicle will drive itself as well as control the speed of the vehicle. Level 3, however, does require the driver to stay conscious in case human intervening is required. Level 4 the driver does not even need to be conscious and the car will completely drive itself without the need for human intervention. And finally level 5 the vehicle doesn’t even need a steering wheel, therefore absolutely not human intervening possible.
With technology advancing you are seeing more intuitive type technology all around. This includes sending communication via text, speaking to someone miles away via video and now even wearing computerized glasses that let us Snapchat. With this technology advancement, we are also seeing people become more impatient and thus needing information faster including when driving. Self-driving cars are creating a safer driving environment. Without someone behind the wheel the chances of crashes due to speed, drinking, and text messaging (and driving) are going to start to decrease. Additionally, because we are able to do other tasks when driving efficiency in our daily lives will increase exponentially. Imagine being able to work or create on the road. It is definitely an interesting time to be alive.
But with all advantages there come disadvantages. With self-driving cars becoming more interesting to businesses due to being able to cut the cost of drivers, the world will see a substantial decrease in jobs. Anything transport related (including buses, delivery systems, and trains) if moving to automation will see a significant number of layoffs. Privacy will also be an issue. Because these vehicles rely so heavily on GPS and tracking services they will always be accessible. Additionally, because humans will have the ability to work on the go, the pull to live in the city will disappear and we’ll see more sprawl and gas usage which will eventually affect the environment negatively. There has also been casualties in the testing process. There have been civilians being hit as well as ‘drivers’ within the vehicles dying too due to programming issues with brings up some ethical questions.
With the changes coming up to accommodate self-driving vehicles as well, there are new conversations starting about liability after accidents, governmental laws changes, and insurance coverage. This is a completely new way of life and liability is probably going to be the biggest controversy. There will be an ongoing debate for a while on who should be blamed for crashes, the company who create the vehicle or the driver who agreed to participate in the new technology. There is also debate on how the vehicles should react in an emergency situation and who is liable for if civilians are hurt or property is destroyed.
Self-driving cars are legalized already in 22 American states and are legal in all Canadian provinces. There are no real regulation set yet though and this could affect existing self-driving car owners. Because the companies are still in their testing stage new buyers should be wary about their purchases because laws and regulations change. Currently, the autopilot feature offered by Telsa are installed in their vehicles being sold both in Canada and the United States. Regulation changes are currently being discussed in both Canada and United States.
So what does the future hold? Well, Tesla has promised to have a fully, level 5, self-driving car onto the market by 2018. While BMW expects theirs to be available by 2021. Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes also all plan on having their own versions of the self-driving car available too within the next 5-10 years. As far as price goes, this will definitely increase the price of vehicles but by how much? It’s estimated that the additional technology can get up to $10,000.00 in price between now and 2025. However, as years go by and technology becomes obsolete and demand will decrease as products are sold so there should be a shift in price quite rapidly year per year. It is estimated that by 2035 the price will decrease by about $7000.00. Like with all new technology it makes sense to wait it out. It’s wise to let the technology work out it’s kinks and give it the opportunity to decrease in value.
Overall, self-driving cars are the thing of the future. Eventually, we’ll move into self-driving planes and motorbikes. The technology, though debated, will help keep our roads safer and potentially decrease the number of speeding tickets. It’s unsure yet if this means an increase or decrease in insurance premiums but inevitably it is very exciting to see what the future holds.