Self-Driving Cars - Our Nearest Future

07/21/2014 13:37:05
The experts predict that before the end of the decade, these cars that can drive themselves will start to go on sale, initially costing about $10,000 extra. “This is not a toy. The social and economic implications are enormous. Beyond the practica

 It's been years back – starting from yearly 1920s – when first technologies started to be implemented in cars to help the driver on the road and to eliminate all the involvement of a human being into the process of driving at the end. The process is not that simple and, though it has been moving quite slow, but steady and currently we have been presented with adaptive cruise control, radar, parking assist, crash avoidance and lane-centering. Today we have some totally driver-free cars from several car-producing companies, which exist mainly as prototypes and demonstration systems for now.



A self-driving car is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional vehicle. Being autonomous, it's capable of sensing the environment and navigating without human input altogether. They do that using radar, lidar, GPS and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret that information to identify suitable navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.


Introduction of these cars to a mass production and common use will lead to significant changes all around – in economy, legislative processes, human comfort and many others. Let's compare its downsides to its positive feedback we can anticipate.



Possible drawbacks

  • Software reliability.

  • Liability for damage.

  • Loss of driver-related jobs.

  • Implementation of legal framework and establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars.

  • Autonomous cars relying on lane markings cannot decipher faded, missing, or incorrect lane markings.

  • Cyber Security: A car's computer could potentially be compromised, as could a communication system between cars.

  • Temporary construction zones which are not posted to any maps or data bases.

  • Reduced demand for parking services and for accident related services (Emergency rooms, Injury Lawyers, collision repair, etc.) assuming increased vehicle safety.

  • Reduction in jobs relating to auto insurance and traffic police.

  • Resistance for individuals to forfeit control of their cars.



Expected advantages

  • Removal of constraints on occupants' state – in an autonomous car, it would not matter if the occupants were under age, over age, blind, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired.

  • Fewer traffic collisions, due to an autonomous system's increased reliability and faster reaction time compared to human drivers.

  • Smoother ride.

  • Higher speed limit for autonomous cars.

  • Reduction of physical road signage – autonomous cars could receive necessary communication electronically.

  • Reduction in the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.

  • Alleviation of parking scarcity, as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.

  • Overnight travel would let people sleep and arrive rested.

  • Increased roadway capacity and reduced traffic congestion, and the ability to better manage traffic flow.

  • Reduction of space required for vehicle parking.

  • Relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation chores.

  • Elimination of redundant passengers – humans are not required to take the car anywhere, as the robotic car can drive independently to wherever it is required, such as to pick up passengers or to go in for maintenance. This would be especially relevant to trucks, taxis and car-sharing services.



The experts predict that before the end of the decade, these cars that can drive themselves will start to go on sale, initially costing about $10,000 extra.


“This is not a toy. The social and economic implications are enormous. Beyond the practical benefits, we estimate autonomous cars can contribute $1.3 trillion in annual savings to the U.S. economy alone, with global savings estimated at over $5.6 trillion,” Morgan Stanley says.


KPMG LLP and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) foresee improvements in productivity and energy efficiency as well as new business models.


ABI Research forecasts that truly self-driving cars would become a reality by 2020 and that 10 million such new cars would be rolling out on to United States' public highways every year by 2032.


PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts a reduction of traffic accidents and concludes that the fleet of vehicles in the United States may collapse from 245 million to just 2.4 million.


Navigant Research forecasts that autonomous vehicles will gradually gain traction in the market over the coming two decades and by 2035, sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75% of all light-duty vehicle sales.


Expert members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have estimated that up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040.




Most major car manufacturers are in the race with Mercedes in the lead, followed by other Germans like BMW and Volkswagen. Toyota’s Lexus is at the forefront too, but Ford is also up there and closing fast. So we can expect changes in this domain of car manufacturing quite soon. 


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