Talking about a car that can drive itself sounds something right out of a star trek movie and it feels that this invention could only be possible in the recent years when technology has touched new milestones and had greatest of the achievements. But what if we tell you that the very first autonomous vehicle was built in 1977 by a Japanese car manufacturing company and it was tested successfully. Although the technology used in that vehicle was not as advanced as the technology that is used in cars today but somehow that paved the way for the fully autonomous vehicle that could truly drive it.
When it comes to cars without drivers, it seems that there are more hoaxes than realities. For instance, the concept is that the autonomous vehicles won’t need anyone sitting in driver’s seat and paying attention to the road but in reality, even the most recent semi autonomous vehicles still require a human to sit in driver’s seat and keep his hands on the steering wheel while the car drives it. Just like that, there are many other fake ideas and theories that people have in their minds which are far from the reality. Take a look at some of the concepts and realities of cars without drivers in below.
Common concepts of Cars without Drivers:
These Cars will be Completely Autonomous:
Over the past couple of years, we have seen some of the most remarkable models from various automobile manufacturers but almost all of these were partially autonomous. Means there has to be a person in the driver’s seat and he has to pay attention to the road or the car won’t drive it. If you think of a true autonomous vehicle, it shouldn’t require a human to pay attention to the road. This is the key concept that most of the manufacturers have in their minds for designing a fully autonomous vehicle. The owner of the car will be able to control the vehicle via a remote control or most probably by using an application on his smart phone. He will be able to ask the car to come out of the garage, start the climate control and turn on the headlights etc. after the passengers confirm and enter a destination on the GPS, the car will start driving and will only stop when the destination has arrived or the passengers give command for a stop.
There is no need of a Driver:
A fully autonomous vehicle will be driven without the need of a driver in the driving seat. This has become reality to some extent because there are some shuttle services that take passengers from terminal to the airplane and off boarding passengers to the terminal without the need of the driver but this concept only works in environment i.e. the cars move on specific paths already defined, there are no obstacles or interceptions and the distance is very small. A similar design of this technology can be seen in the car manufacturing factories where the robots are responsible for delivering ordered spare parts to various sections of the production line without someone actually driving the vehicle.
Driving Controls can be Eliminated:
If there is no need for a driver to be presented in the car, why would an autonomous vehicle need driving controls? Because there is no need for the driving controls, most of the famous autonomous car models revealed to general public have very spacious interior where all passengers can sit facing each other without the need for someone to pay attention to the road. There are no steering, paddles, bulky dashboard or gauge cluster because computers don’t need screens to find the data and figures. Not only that it creates a lot of sitting space inside the vehicle but the overall design can be changed and more non-traditional looking vehicles can be formed.
Electric autonomous cars will drive themselves for up to 1000 miles:
One of the most futuristic and highly appreciated features of autonomous vehicles is that if you combine this technology with electric power option, you can end up with a vehicle that can drive itself for more than 500 miles or even for 1000 miles. There won’t be any stops for filling up the gas tank or if we talk about a big autonomous vehicle i.e. utility van, there can be a bathroom inside the vehicle so the passengers won’t need to make rest room stops either. Because the computer can run a vehicle for unlimited time without getting dizzy or tired, the car won’t need to stop for resting or taking a nap after driving 4-5 hours but it can constantly drive until it reaches at the destination.
Reality of Cars without Drivers:
The Autonomous Industry is not Regulated:
When we talk about regulating an industry i.e. automobile industry, governments are very strict because lives of thousands or even millions of people might be at risk if there is a flaw in the design. This is the reason that car manufacturers can’t just design a car that they like but they need to follow the specific and very strict regulations and terms and conditions from the local government. This is not the case in autonomous vehicles. There are couple of reasons; this industry is still under development and we haven’t seen a fully driverless car on the road so the governments aren’t taking it seriously or they might be waiting for the first ever car to be tested and passed and then specific regulations could be created. But if regulation is not implemented, manufacturers can put lives of humans at risk just to win the battle of who creates the first autonomous car ever.
Autonomous cars are easy to hack:
It’s not rocket science to understand that a fully autonomous vehicle will move solely with the computer instructions and computers can’t work without internet and GPS and various other remote control features. This makes the whole concept vulnerable because just like a laptop connected to internet, the hackers can easily control and manipulate autonomous features. For instance, you enter your destination and let the car drive it but someone the route is changed and you end up at a different destination or the car just stops in the middle of the road because it got the instructions to stop from a hacker. When we talk about cars without drivers, perhaps this is the most important risk involved in creating a fully autonomous car.
Computers can’t react like Humans:
Over the past couple of years, this has become simpler and clearer that computers can’t think like humans. Don’t get us wrong because there are some tasks that computers can perform better and quicker than humans but when it comes to reacting to an uncertain situation, computers don’t have the thinking power or capabilities to react in the best possible way. This when combined with the autonomous cars that are driven fully by the computers, can be dangerous in some particular scenarios.
A few months ago, on the highway in USA, a car crashed into rolled over vehicle and later when investigation was done, it was revealed that the driver used autopilot option in the Tesla model S and he wasn’t paying attention to the road. When the car got dangerously close to the vehicle ahead of it and didn’t slow down, the driver panicked and tried to push the brakes but it was too late and the car just slammed into the overturned vehicle. This accident made it very clear that autonomous cars not matter how advanced they are don’t have the capability to react to uncertain situations like humans.
Unusual circumstances can’t be predicted:
Humans don’t need to be trained to react in a specific way. Obviously we are not talking about the fields and jobs where employees are trained properly to overcome problems and incidents. Even without any training, a human has the ability to quickly evaluate the situation and react in the best possible way safer for him. This can also be taught to the computers but you can’t teach the computer each and every possible situation where it might end up. While an autonomous vehicle is driving on the road, there can be hundreds of objects that could intercept the path of the vehicle and as the reaction to each object should be different, the computer won’t be able to compensate the uncertain change. Most of the autonomous manufacturers are spending time in developing some way to teach the computer to predict the uncertain situation i.e. realize the situation before an accident happens but there is still not much luck.
It could turn into a brick without power:
Let’s not forget the most obvious problem with the autonomous cars that they will run most probably on battery and if the passengers forget about charging the vehicle, it could just run out of power and end up as a brick in the middle of the road. Although Tesla has done pretty impressive job with their fully battery power vehicles and alarm system that rings when the battery drops to a certain point but it’s still in the initial stage. If a computer is trained to handle various controls i.e. putting the car in reverse or parking the car, what happens if the computer parks the car and the battery runs out? You won’t be able to drive it because there won’t be any controls i.e. steering, brake and gas pedals and you won’t be able to tow the vehicle either because it’s in parked position and can’t be moved.