Self-driving technology has been making rounds in media and is said to revolutionize the way people travel and get around. With 94% of car crashes reported to have been caused by human error as stated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there’s really a huge opportunity for these vehicles to be on the market. The development of this technology could save countless lives.
Also, it is much helpful for disabled drivers who are visually impaired, having mobility issues, and mental health issues, which currently prevent them from driving. These vehicles will allow them to live independently without relying upon somebody else.
Having all these possibilities and documented benefits regarding the advantage of employing autonomous vehicles, are we already close to a driverless future?
Countless articles and tweets on social media are making rounds lately about self-driving vehicles. They promise to revolutionize the way we travel and get around, believing they can possibly make driving safer and easier.
Experts say it’s best to think of self-driving cars as a patchwork of technologies, rather than minding statements from those giant full-stack companies promising that we’ll be enjoying our robotic shuttles by the end of next year.
How are we close to self-driving technology?
Source: Monash University
The quick answer is NOT YET.
In spite of Elon Musk’s self-assuring claim that Tesla will have a “full self-driving” capability by the end of 2020, the world is too diverse and unpredictable, robots are deemed too pricey and temperamental, for cars navigating all the things human drivers navigate now.
John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo (the grown-up company that was Google’s self-driving car project), even agrees, saying last year, “Autonomy always will have some constraints.”
Companies believe being the first to claim and launch self-driving vehicles publicly brings prestige and millions sales, the downside would be quite insane. Just recently, a death of a passenger who was in autopilot mode lead questions over safety standards.
“Autonomous driving is not going to be here overnight,” Jeremy Carlson, senior analyst with the automotive division of IHS, a financial analytics firm in London, said in a statement. “It’s going to be a gradual rollout of technology, and it’s going to take some time from even today before we have fully autonomous vehicles.”
What are the roadblocks?
Here are other reasons why self-driving technology is not even here yet at this time:
- Complexities on roads. Most of the existing autonomous vehicles are spending their days in places with warm, clear weather than travelling on places with extreme conditions such as rain, snow, and ice, which might be thought to compromise their AI decision making.
- Regulation and restriction obstacles. In reality, most states and local governments are quite conservative when it comes to regulating standards of self-driving cars for public testing, because there are no existing laws for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads and selling to the general public yet.
- Unmet promises. Numerous personalities such as Elon Musk of Tesla have been making bold promises about the future of self-driving cars for a long time. From 2016 and early 2017, all his promises of unlocking fully autonomous vehicles with unrealistic timelines imply low confidence over the market.
- Cost effectiveness. Though most companies like Tesla is producing autonomous vehicle models with hardware capabilities to support fully autonomous driving technology since 2016, still it is not a guarantee. Companies like Tesla, should need to make sure they can reliably produce and distribute a cost-effective technology.
Though certain news, studies, and company advertisements promising that self-driving technology is the next future thing. We cannot simply assure with that, because there are certain obstacles ahead which can prevent the most sough technology to be on its peak. Consider road complexities, state or government regulations and restrictions, bold and unmet promises from giant full-stack companies, and cost effectiveness of the technology. Experts say it’s best to think of self-driving cars as a patchwork of technologies.
By Tuan Nguyen