Yes thats right! You may have dreamt of time machines and flying vehicles but if you have dreamt about driverless cars that takes you from one place to another your dream might just soon turn into a reality. If experts on the Google driverless car technology are to be believed this car may be introduced in the market as early as 2020.
What has fundamentally changed in automobile technology since Henry Ford gave his model T to the world 105 years back? To start with model T had an IC engine running on gas with crank shafts connected to the drive train and steering controlling the four wheels. Driver controls everything looking into windshield. Not much has changed and today’s cars are the same except that they have bigger engines, better car designs and faster speeds. However, really nothing has changed. A driver must still drive a car and passengers seated often take to worrying about the driver lapses during the drive.
This concept of driving cars manually by a driver is about to change shortly. Enter Google’s driverless car ! You can now sip hot coffee on a rainy day, read a newspaper or a tablet without worrying about traffic conditions, visibility and road ahead of you –all this while being at the driver’s seat in a car. Puzzled? Actually technology is in the driver’s seat instead of you!
The concept of driverless vehicles is after all not new. When many decades ago the autopilot system in aircraft was launched people were sceptical about a machine taking over control and risking lives of people on board. However, this myth was busted and Capt. Autopilot proved to be a robust and consistent performer that would almost never fail.
Though auto-pilot is primarily used when the plane is in the air, nowadays all landings and take-offs are also actually controlled by the auto pilot and instruments.
When it comes to an auto-driver (or a driverless car) its a game changer. The environmental data that includes trees, roads, buildings, humans and other cars is so huge that it is reported that the radar sensors and cameras feed about 1GB data per second to the control computer of the car. This computer takes decisions in fractions of seconds to determine which direction is it safe to move ahead or brake.
All this means, theoretically no accidents since no human errors involved, no more driving mistakes and carelessness like sudden lane changing or over-under steering, no more stress on drivers to find optimum route to beat the traffic, no more fines for over speeding, no more poor reflexes and no more distractions for the driver. In fact it means, no more drivers required! Imagine using the hours stuck in traffic utilized for something useful and productive.
Google has been extensively testing some self-driving prototypes along with features that can assist a driver such as lane changing and cruise control.
Imagine parking problems in downtown area. The self-driving car will find the closest parking spot for you. Better, you can take a driverless taxi or a pooled driverless car and get down at the place where you wish to go. Think of the tons of gas that can be saved in just finding a parking spot.
The impact on economy of a driverless is also underestimated. In transportation business, imagine the truck driver carrying goods from place A to place B has to travel several hundred miles. He would naturally take breaks, sleep at night (in case of continuous driving required) and is still error prone.
Come in Driverless car. No breaks, Save transportation time, increase vehicle/truck safety and reduce downtime of the entire logistics and transportation chain. Save $$ and increase productivity in your transportation business.
If you think that is pretty cool, sample this. You are injured at home or a work place and you need to rush to a hospital. Emergency situations where you are alone and nobody to drive for you, these driverless cars would be revving their engines and just waiting for you to get in. Once you are in the car, the car will take you to the nearest hospital or medical emergency centre, directly taking all your voice commands.
But practically, there may be some issues in this system when dealing with difficult on road conditions. For example in case of a snow fall, the car mapping environment may not be accurate which may result in unpredictable actions. Certainly you don’t want that!
Also there a serious concern if an accident takes place. Who takes the blame? Apart from legal aspects, some human right activists have also questioned the ethics of driverless cars and technology that would take control over human lives.
While states like California, Florida and Nevada in the US have already proposed and passed some laws about driverless cars, it remains a mystery whether same rules would be standardized across the US and rest of the world for all driverless cars.
While your next car is certainly not a driverless one, the fact that technology is taking control is inevitable. This would probably be the most revolutionary milestone for automobile industry. So the next time a cop pulls you over or your wife picks your driving skills, you can be sure those things only happen in your dreams.