The amount that the world has changed in the past 20 years surpasses any changes in any other 20-year period that came before it. The evolution of the mobile phone, our reliance on the internet, and continuous developments in Artificial Intelligence mean the world we are familiar with is constantly evolving.
One of the major developments we continue to see are those in transportation. The Electric Car is currently being manufactured for worldwide rollout, with governments hoping they will become the new normal thanks to their huge reduction in Carbon Emissions. However, just as we’re coming to terms with Electric Cars becoming mainstream, it appears that thanks to further developments in AI, the Driverless Car is a closer possibility than we may think.
In an article published in 2015, the Guardian predicted that all drivers will be “permanent backseat” drivers as in 2020 self-driving cars will dominate the roads. This claim was substantiated by announcements from General Motors, Toyota and Tesla, who all said they will be producing self-driving cars by 2020. So, the year has been and gone, and self-driving cars aren’t here. With this in mind the questions remains: when are we likely to see them on the roads and are they a good investment for those interested in investing in technology?
How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?
The idea behind a driverless car is quite a simple one: put cameras all over it that can pinpoint the locations of objects so it knows whether to speed up, slow down, stop or steer. By teaching computers in the car the rules of the road, in theory, they should be able to navigate toward their destination without further human interference.
That description, though true, papers over a lot of the complexities that come with driving successfully. When humans drive, we don’t simply follow the rules of the road, we make eye contact with one another and flash lights to confirm right of way, we adapt to different weather conditions and make judgement calls that are just too humanlike to encode into a computer.
Cars need to obtain data from the road in order to act the way that human driven cars would. They need to do millions of miles in order to collect this information and a lot of these miles are done by simulation, so engineers need to make sure the information the self-driving car has obtained is correct and would apply to real world circumstances.
Why Are Driverless Cars Taking Longer Than Expected?
Developments in AI have come an extremely long way and those developments are being incorporated into everyday life frequently, such as in our mobile phones, household appliances and predominantly in gaming. The issue with self-driving cars is that AI hasn’t come far enough yet to solve as complex a real-world problem as driving on the road.
Are Driverless Cars Safe?
Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, was killed in March 2018 by a self-driving car in Arizona. The event was a harrowing reminder that though the amount of progress being made is astonishing, the technology in self-driving cars still has a long way to go before it is safe to use.
The system that was being operated at the time had an issue with detecting hazards, in that it allowed for one second after the hazard was detected to either plan an alternative route or allow the driver to take control. This means that even after the cameras on the car detected Elaine Herzberg, it didn’t brake.
These problems can and currently are being fixed; however, they act as a delay in getting driverless cars onto the road. Once the system is fully working, self-driving cars could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives when compared to the amount of driving fatalities that are caused by humans; however, we simply aren’t there yet.
Are Self-Driving Cars a Good Investment?
A lot of companies are continually trying to perfect their self-driving cars but the one thing they all have in common is that none of them have done it yet, leaving the market wide open for investment. Additionally, thanks to covid-19, there has been a push in producing contactless technology, which makes the appeal of self-driving cars even more prevalent.
With the amount of interest that people have in driverless cars, paired with the fact they are more than likely to become widely available products that people all over the world will want to own, makes them a prime source of investment for investors seeking innovative and exciting projects.