How Self-Driving Cars May Change The World

Post 7974

“this is an article sent in by Sally Thomas ” :

How Self-Driving Cars May Change The World

Self-driving cars. Some are horrified by the prospect. Others are excited. Whatever you think of them, however, they’re on their way. We’ve got the technology, and governments are working even now on putting legislative infrastructures in place which will allow their use. Quite what form these infrastructures will take remains to be seen – but it looks pretty certain that the first commercial driverless cars will be hitting a road near you pretty soon. One day, you may even own one yourself. Or possibly not, if driverless technology changes vehicle ownership trends (as it may well do…). Plenty of people think that driverless cars will bring sweeping changes to the world in their wake. This might be true, it might not – it all depends on what legislation accompanies their advent, and how the public receive and use them. However, let’s go out on a limb and have a look at some of the changes which could, potentially, take place with driverless cars…

General Motors’ Firebird II was described as having an “electronic brain” that allowed it to move into a lane with a metal conductor and follow it along

The Transportation Industry Could Transform

The industry most obviously and immediately affected by driverless technology will be the transportation industry. If your vehicle drives itself, it does not need a driver, after all. Lots of people are worried that this will put those currently employed to drive out of a job. However, this may not necessarily be the case. After all, while a driverless lorry may be able to get your parcel to your street, it can’t carry it to your door and get your signature. And while a driverless bus may be able to get you from A to B, it can’t provide security, or answer your queries about tickets. While there may well be technological solutions around both of these problems, it also seems likely at the moment that governments will insist on having someone qualified to take manual control of any driverless commercial vehicle on board while the vehicle is in operation – whether or not they are actually driving it themselves. So the outlook for bus drivers and delivery people isn’t as bleak as it may seem!

Ownership May Alter

For private vehicles, it could transpire that people will come to see cars as more of a service to be called up as and when needed rather than as individual possessions. If you can direct your car by remote control, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be out and about transporting other people from place to place when you don’t need it yourself. This poses some interesting questions for the private car industry. For example, if you can happily co-own a car with a group of other people, and if none of you are actually driving the car themselves, how will the current system of needing to be insured on the car you drive work? Will vehicle companies offer subscription services via which users can call up cars when they need them, rather than owning their own – like a remote control taxi, only cheaper? All very interesting, and something that the automotive industry is currently working upon rather feverishly!

The Volvo S60 Drive Me autonomous test vehicle is considered Level 3 autonomous driving.

Parking Won’t Be A Problem

If you can send your car off to park itself, and call it back when you need it, the problem of parking suddenly ceases to be an issue. Indeed, we could potentially free up an awful lot of land space currently occupied by car parks which must needs be within walking distances of houses, shops, workplaces etc. If self-driving cars could take themselves to a single depot when not actively transporting people, that eliminates at a stroke the necessity for shopping center and office car parks. You could even grub up your drive and turn it into a garden, or convert your garage into a games room!

Tesla Model S Autopilot system is suitable only on limited-access highways not for urban driving. Among other limitations, Autopilot can not detect pedestrians or cyclists.

The Look Of Vehicles Will Change

As you’d expect, proponents of driverless vehicles currently claim that they’ll be a lot safer than what we’ve got at the moment. Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen – but it’s almost certain that the safety specs for driverless cars will be different to those of manually driven cars. For a start, they’re likely to have electric engines, which are considerably smaller than petroleum-driven engines. While they’ll need space for the computer tech which will drive the car, these can also be rendered pretty small. So spacious hoods to house hefty engines simply won’t be needed. Currently, there’s a good argument for keeping a large ‘crumple zone’ regardless of what’s under the hood, as it helps to protect passengers during head-on collisions. However, the likelihood is that driverless car passengers will be in the back rather than the front of the car, meaning that the vehicle as a whole can be a hell of a lot smaller without sacrificing any ‘crumple zone’ advantages.


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