Talking tech since 2003

You might have probably asked yourself this question numerous times – is the prospect of entirely autonomous cars elusive? To put it, no, it is not.

The dream of reading a book, chatting with your friends, or watching a movie in your car while it drives itself safely is within our reach. Sure, the realization of that dream is not completely within our grasp, but it will be, it will take a bit of time.

We are already close, look at how Tesla has come so far as to semi-autonomous delivery cars, and people are already asking some tough hitting questions like how is our infrastructure like roads and highways going to adapt to autonomous vehicles? Or how human driving will need to change as self-driving cars become common in the near future?

It is starting – but the process is slow and is within city limits

To begin with, we already have a clear idea of the fact that self-driving will not become ubiquitous overnight. A big chunk of vehicles you see on the road today, or the one you drives, do not come with many automation features. The automation is limited to cruise control. You may have read about or watch demos on self-driving cars being tested on the road, but that is it – these are concepts, and it is highly likely that you are going to see fully autonomous cars at different car buying services in UK in the coming years.

Another element that will inhibit the widespread utilization of self-driving cars is the fact that many people like to cling to their vehicles for as long as they can. What this essentially means is the number of fully self-driving cars as a majority share on the highways or roads will take time to grow, and this process will be relatively slow.

Furthermore, it is quite safe to suggest that self-driving vehicles will first be launched to be driven on the streets and not be legal to drive on motorways or interstate highways. And there are good reasons why this is a truism. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the safety or technological innovation incorporated within an autonomous car – it has a lot to do with public policy.

Local government bodies are traditionally more proficient and adept compared to federal government institutions, which is why you can already see robot taxi services being tested on the streets in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

However, it will take time to test robot taxis on the interstate mainly because highway laws and regulations are mainly governed by federal and state law, which are far more complex. The reforms will take time, which is why self-driving cars will first be legal on the streets and not on highways.

While this does present us with some good idea or at least help us imagine the vast possibilities fully self-driving cars can provide us on the road, there are still a lot of things that we don’t know and yet to find out.

For example, some concerns are fall on the technical aspects of self-driving cars, like how safe will they be when driving on snow or during heavy rainfall? Or, will the autonomous car be able to maneuver on unpaved roads or bad road conditions safely?

Other questions and unknowns factors fall on the transportation infrastructure as a whole. For instance, how will self-driving vehicles cope with traffic congestions, will they make the journey convenient for us, or should we expect problems. Because there aren’t a lot of self-driving cars on the road for experimentations, we can only rely on answers derived from computer modeling and simulation, and it is highly doubtful it anybody would risk their safety based on simulators and computer statistics, we need real experimentation, in real-time.

Sure, computer-generated experiments and simulations can provide some form of satisfaction when answering all these questions, there is still one authentic component that these simulations cannot take into account. And that is unpredictable human behavior. For now, saying that fully automated vehicles will help lessen traffic congestion is, at best-uninformed speculation or specious.

Will our roads become safer with autonomous cars?

This is a good question. However, you have to realize that a majority of car crashes and accidents happen as a direct result of human error or negligence. So, in this, it is likely that self-driving can make the roads safer. By removing the human factor in driving, you can lessen the probability of an accident that could happen as a result of negligence.

However, again, the statistical evidence to claim the self-driving car will make the road safer is bare minimum, especially when you talk about the initial transition period – when fully autonomous vehicles and traditional vehicles start to share the roads. But there is still an overpowering need for cautionary optimism. That is because, as per statistical evidence presented by federal institutions, the preliminary readings do show that self-driving cars perform more safely compared to countrywide human driving data averages.

Will car ownership change?

It is still too soon to say anything about the impact on car ownership or buying trends. There is a good chance that a lot of people might even want to own their self-driving cars, or they could very well call in a robot taxi whenever they need to go anywhere. As per a study posted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute, it was identified that the decision was a 50-50 when respondents in Texas were asked whether they would be willing to travel in a fully autonomous vehicle.

But these results are subject to drastic change. You see, many people still do not have a lot of information and knowledge on how autonomous cars are safe, and the same goes for their benefits. People will likely start to become more accepting of self-driving cars as more pertinent questions are answered in the future. However, it is still unclear what exactly people will do in their cars while the vehicle drives itself. We don’t know how this will impact other travel-related factors and decisions, for example, whether they would want to travel more in autonomous cars or not. Everything hinges on viable results and information, which will come in the future.

In addition, it is also true that what traditional drivers will need to know will also be subject to change in different ways, ways that are not clear as of yet. It is likely that there are going to be newer driver education lessons and vehicle safety programs. Humans will still need to understand how to operate and behave in fully autonomous vehicles. The same goes with the emergencies and the role of humans in averting potential disaster. Similarly, there will also be a need to educate drivers on self-driving car maintenance operations, or any other potential elements of these cars.

There will also be an extensive review of the legal ramifications of self-driving car accidents; it is difficult to say who will be to blame if a fully autonomous car crashes. What if a police officer stops a self-driving car for going to slow? Who will he issue the citation to? These are all very pressing concerns that we are going to have to wait and see.

Bottom line

What you can be certain of is the fact that transportation is evolving fast and is quickly propelling into the future. Sure, we can’t expect our cars to fly anytime soon, but our vehicles are capable of doing things that were unimaginable just a couple of decades ago.

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