Technology is the new order of the day.
Every new day welcomes an interesting chapter to the ever-rising book of technology.
From the tricky brains of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the invention of white-collar automation, there is always something in technology that holds admiration to many.
One of those immerging technologies that have received widespread interest from key stakeholders around the globe is self-driving cars.
Due to the popular demand for road safety, stressless driving, and energy efficient cars, autonomous vehicles have been viewed from varied angles as to how they would fit into the system of road usage.
In this short piece, we would be discussing the interesting detail of self-driving cars and their impact and implication on the human race at large.
But before we start, let us look at a brief history of autonomous vehicles and how they came about.
Autonomous vehicles are vehicles that combine a variety of techniques such as computer vision, odometry, GPS, laser light and radar to be able to sense its environment and navigate without any human intervention or input.
They are used synonymously as self-driving cars, robotic cars or driverless cars as their nature suggests.
Autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars began as a dream in the 1920’s.
However, the first practical autonomous vehicle was introduced in 1977 by the Tsukuba mechanical engineering lab in Japan.
Ever since the first autonomous car was introduced, a lot of development has gone into autonomous vehicles with considerations of speed, safety, efficiency, and reliability made into them.
The most recent autonomous invention is the Audi A8 2017 which can reach speeds of about 60 km/hr on a level 3 autonomous driving.
Let us now go into detail to see how these cars can be of advantage to the human race.
Safety is a primary concern for every human on earth.
Safety and security rank as the second most important factor to humans on the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
That is why when it comes road transport which is one of the riskiest factors to humans, a lot of attention has been paid to making the future of transport safer.
It is estimated that 81% of road accidents occur as a result of human error.
According to the association for safe international road travel ( ASIRT), about 1.3 million people die from road accidents on a global basis yearly.
Most of these deaths according to investigations are caused by distracted driving and are usually preventable.
Since computers and hence radar aided driving leave little room for errors, there is a high probability that self-driving cars would reduce road accidents to the barest minimum.
Hence reckless speeding, drunk driving, tired driving and drug-related road accidents would be substantially eliminated.
There has been a global call in recent times for energy efficiency especially in fuel consuming vehicles.
Since automated vehicles represent the future of road transport, a lot of consideration has been made towards making them the most energy efficient as possible.
Considerations for efficient energy such as electric cars have been incorporated.
Additionally, renewable alternative energy sources such as solar and hydrogen are being considered to make self-driving cars even more efficient and reliable.
A study reveals that autonomous vehicles would reduce traffic congestion in cities and hence lesser gas would be needed to cover distances.
If you live in an urban settlement, you would probably realize how traffic congestion can be an obstacle to productivity and comfort.
People spend a huge number of hours stuck in traffic without any options.
Thankfully, due to the platooning behavior and intercommunication of self-driving vehicles, traffic congestion would be reduced significantly.
Also, due to the increasing effect that self-driving vehicles have on controlled access highway throughput, highway capacity would increase which would, in turn, have a positive impact in reducing traffic congestion in cities.
Driving can be stressful at times.
The time and energy spent to concentrate on driving can have a lot of physical and productive effects for the road user.
Thankfully, since automated vehicles drive on their own, they would help give the driver and any other passenger the needed comfort to focus on other activities.
Also, physically challenged people who usually need the help of someone in order to use a car can use one on their own without any external help.
Also, due to the relatively safe nature of self-driving cars, police officers would be relieved of the task of taking traffic tickets in order to focus on other more serious assignments.
Finally, there would be no need to always take the keys away from your little ones since your automated car can simply drive itself and hence no inquisition headache.
Despite the numerous benefit that accompanies the invention of automated vehicles, they are some few limitations that may impede their usage or make them less reliable.
Firstly, the burden of driving liability would be a challenge.
Who would bear the cost of driving?
The cost of driving would be a deviation from the norm of conventional driving where the cost is usually limited to the labor and energy of the driver.
This time around for self-driving vehicles, either the vehicle manufacturing company would have to take the burden of cost or the burden of cost would be directed to the end user.
Secondly, due to the vulnerability of communication systems to break down, accidents or vehicle breakdowns could occur to road users.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision and radar are all subject to timely breakdown.
Breakdown of such technologies can, therefore, have an effect on the use of automated vehicles.
Finally, there would be a loss of driver related jobs on the job market.
Since machines would do the driving, then there would be no need for human drivers.
This can have an effect on the livelihoods of people and hence endanger the means of sustenance in huge detail.
Whether it is regarded as a dream or a reality, automated vehicles are closer to us than ever before.
They hold the future of transport in very promising details.
They also carry accompanying negative effects on a number of people and operations.
But whatever it may be, everything has its advantages and disadvantages.
Nothing is perfect and can be perfect aside from the creator of perfection.
We can only hope, measure and manage.
But to the extent to which self-driving cars would be managed, I guess the future holds the answers.
Time will surely tell.