Autonomous Vehicles are taking the Wheel

Thought of as science fantasy a decade ago, it is now reality. It has been a year of major advancements in autonomous driving technology. What is an Autonomous Vehicle? A vehicle which is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. These cars use a variety of techniques to detect surroundings such as radar, lidar, GPS and computer vision.

Tesla with its Model S in Autonomous Mode has clocked in around 70 million miles in different conditions though it is currently facing legal lawsuits relating to reliability of its software. Ride-Hailing startup Uber has tested its Self-Driving Cars on the roads of Pittsburgh and California (Not properly though) and has purchased a company called Otto which hauled 50,000 beers across Colorado with nobody in the truck. Technology giant, Google has been testing self-driving since 2008 and has created Waymo; a stand-alone company for self-driving cars under Alphabet.

Although it has had major advances, the masses will need time to take to these cars just as they are taking time to adopt electric cars (Except for Tesla drivers, they seem to be enjoying it). The first Autonomous vehicles are going to be long-haul freight trucks. They mostly travel on highways and don’t encounter stray pedestrians. Moreover, if they are automated, they can keep going without stopovers forming chains which will reduce drag (Just like NASCAR). It won’t result in loss of jobs because someone would have to secure the cargo. Car companies are looking forward to it as it will increase transport efficiency.

Autonomous drivers have outshone humans many a times but they just can’t beat our brain’s instinct. What if, someone suddenly comes in front of a car and it is choice between injuring the passenger or the pedestrian; what does the car do? Our brain really is a thing from the future. So, if someone is killed, whose responsibility is it, the passenger, the autonomous software or the car company? This is something that is still being debated. Another potential obstacle is that autonomous cars run on software, these cars will need protection from hacking or jamming.

Moreover, with the coming of Autonomous Cars will come enormous amounts of data, in every minute 40 GB of data, where will this be stored? In cloud. Large chunks of this data will have to be stored in cloud servers all over the world. Major companies are betting big on data storage and data computing, this is going to come as a huge boost as major car-makers will need this kind of infrastructure.

Why are we working hard towards achieving this? The answer is clear from the statistics. Over 1.3 million people die every year and an additional 20-50 million people are injured. At least ninety percent of these crashes are caused due to human error. This can be resolved with Autonomous driving. The result:

  • On the major freeways, speed limits can be increased, cars can drive closer to each other unlike human drivers.
  • Distractions like mobile phones won’t affect driving and cars can even schedule for maintenance.
  • These cars can function in unity in a connected world and if anyone needs any medical attention then the car can call emergency services.
  • Moreover, there is going to be very less chance of your car getting stolen as there is no steering wheel and car is more intelligent.

The world is embracing this technology fast, we know that this is the future of cars, the future of driving. We might probably get driving tracks in the future for those who would like to drive and we might as well have autonomous races which would judge the software developed by the racing teams. Probably cars will also sign up on a social networking platform and post, “Done 200 miles today. Top Speed Challenge on ABC Freeway – 250 mph. It was thrilling, the destination looks beautiful.”

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