The future is now. What was considered the realm of science fiction only a few decades ago now seems to be the new normal. From superfast computers in our pockets and virtual reality headsets that transport us to worlds that blow our minds, to rockets that can land vertically to self-driving completely autonomous cars. If what we’re seeing today could be shown to someone from the 1990’s, they wouldn’t be able to guess that this is all happening only two decades later.
But let’s talk about autonomous cars for a moment. The technology is something that was being worked on for many years, but it was only recently that we began to see commercial applications of it in vehicles available to consumers worldwide. Already we’ve begun to see videos popping up on social media of drivers casually browsing the internet on their phones or even sleeping as their cars drive them to work. And this technology is only going to improve from here on out, until the day autonomous driving completely overtakes manual driving. But can it? Will self-driving cars ever match the skill of a human driver? Let’s discuss.
First, the Disadvantages
When talking about self-driving cars, you can quickly get overwhelmed with the number of reasons that it is considered better than manual driving by a human. And all those reasons are true. When you just compare even the initial comparisons and test results, it becomes quite clear that autonomous driving is performing significantly better. So, let’s actually discuss some disadvantages to self-driving cars that apply to them, for now at least.
Firstly, self-driving cars currently lack the ability to decide what to do in extremely peculiar cases. This could mean examples where traffic is behaving erratically, or there is a sudden roadblock, for example a rockslide on a mountainous road. These areas are being rapidly improved of course, but as it stands, these scenarios still require human intervention.
Another disadvantage would be the fact that priority algorithms are still being worked on. For example, a morbid hypothetical scenario that is often presented asks what a self-driving car should do if it is suddenly faced with a choice to either run over a toddler or an elderly person when braking or swerving off the road is impossible. Another scenario considers sacrificing the family inside the car to save a greater number of people on the road ahead. These hypothetical scenarios have no easy answers even for human drivers, but there are always unknown quantities and variables that might result in a better result overall if the human driver were to intervene.
Lastly, people fear that autonomous cars will put another dent into the privacy issue plaguing the modern world today. With smart TVs and smartphones already exacerbating the problems that come with mass government surveillance, self-driving car raise further fears of privacy breaches being committed farther down the line.
Autonomous Driving Can Be Error-Free
Now, let’s talk about why autonomous driving can be so much better than physical driving. For starters, self-driving vehicles have the rulebook memorized front-to-back and they don’t forget. While people may panic in certain situations, or even forget some traffic laws and commit violations, autonomous cars will never do that. Their digital nature makes it practically impossible for them to forget to signal while turning or not notice a stop sign.
Autonomous Driving Could Improve Via Interconnectivity
One of the most promising aspects of self-driving cars is the fact that if all cars on a road are autonomous ones, they can communicate with each other for the most efficient form of driving possible. Just imagine, that all cars on a highway are constantly being updated with every other car’s exact coordinates and velocity as well as future movements. This would result in fast, tightly packed, and yet completely accident-free driving as each car would be perfectly aware of not just its surroundings, but the surroundings of every other car as well. This would in turn result in perfectly synchronized accelerating, braking, turning, and merging.
Autonomous Cars Can React Much Quicker
Of course, being digital in nature and always keeping an eye out with multiple sensors means that self-driving cars would be able to, and in fact are able to even now, react faster than the quickest and most perceptive person on the planet. They can make calculations and respond to multiple variables in nanoseconds. This means the eradications of fumbling around with the steering wheel or hitting the wrong pedal, and instead perfect reactions that save both the driver and the other people on the road. And once the aforementioned morality algorithms are smoothed out, we would have the best of all worlds in one car.
As it stands now, self-driving cars have their own admittedly small set of problems. The technology is new and is being improved day by day, but there are pros to physical driving at the moment. However, it is quite clear that yes; one day in the not-too-distant future, autonomous driving will take over physical driving and we will all be better off because of it. When so many other aspects of our lives have been automated to great degrees and even greater success, it seems like a no-brainer to come to the conclusion that autonomous driving will not only take over physical driving, it might just even become mandatory to eliminate accidents and traffic jams. In the meantime, be sure to read about automatic braking technology to learn more about it. Or perhaps read about self-driving cars and their current levels of automation.