High tech automobile companies such as Ford, General Motors, Waymo, Google, and Apple seem never to cease in their test of autonomous or self-driving cars in their small fleets. This, they do with the optimism that self-driving vehicles will or should dominate our roads in a couple of decades to come.
Again, these tech-geeks believe that self-driving cars are coming as a major solution to some human-created ills such as fatal accidents and traffic jams on the road. Also, they are strongly motivated to get the autonomous cars rolling out of factories with the prediction that a shift from car ownership can save about 1.2 million lives yearly as well as cut the number of cars plying the roads by about 80% – I’m not sure about these, though.
The self-driving vehicles are seen to be an avenue for tons of revenue for these automobile companies. Estimates have it that these cars are expected to bring an enormous $7 trillion passenger economy especially as new delivery will spring up through the self-driving cars market.
With all these prospects wrapped around the self-driving cars, tons of obstacles abound in bringing this to reality. The technology, however, still has lots of challenges to overcome. Typical of such challenges include the ability of the self-driving cars to make good decisions, recognize objects as well as failing in safety test – all of which requires more testing to conquer.
Some analyses even submit that level-five cars, which are capable of operating without any human aid on all types of roads in every driving conditions, are likely not to stand the test of time for a decade or even more. Looking at safety, is it an undeniable fact that about 90% of accidents on the road currently as caused by divers.
But self-driving cars come with other unforeseen dangers where car owners are even lulled to have a sense of security while taking a ride. At such times, the sense of confidence gotten from the intelligence of self-driving car makes many car owners even ignore using their seat belts, or they may even get too busy with other activities that they hardly can sense when there is a technical fault within the car. Like you would guess, such scenes are bound to have a disastrous end both to the car owner as well as other road commuters and pedestrians.
But beyond these and despite the expected economic opportunities which are said to accompany the autonomous vehicles, there are some handful of reasons regarding why self-driving vehicles are likely to fail. By this, I mean their inability to live up to most of these prospects, or at least taking a long time to attain them.
For argument with an attempt to establish a basis for more research on this incoming technology, we’ll look at a few downsides about the autonomous vehicles.
- Self-Driving Cars Won’t Function Perfectly in Transportation Service
Currently, many automobiles companies that are working ceaselessly to see that the self-driving cars come to reality are basically working to have it come as an introduction to a self-driving car deal. So, in essence, this translates to the fact that you are likely not to own your personal car.
All you can do is get a good ride from a series of robo-cars which are produced and maintained by popular brands such as Uber, Lyft, or Waymo. By extension what this means is that transportation service companies which are currently in operation are obviously not having their way to a profitable venture again. They will continue to lose tons of monetary returns daily.
Again, when looking at the sophisticated equipment and technologies which are employed to enable self-driving cars to effectively convert physical objects into readable data is very expensive to pay for. With this, it is therefore not news that consumer vehicles having all these computers and laser technologies on boards will be daringly expensive to acquire. Question about maintenance and calibration? Hmmm – scary it seems since the cost of replacing or fixing these parts aren’t easy to come by.
Putting these factors and facts together, it becomes glaring that the self-driving cars in which many auto companies are boasting about are simply a robo-car service rather than a robo-cars.
With evidence such as these, George Hotz, who is famous for building himself a DIY driving device puts a hilarious line to describe the self-driving cars “ they already have this product, called Uber, it works pretty well, so what is a robo-car ride if not a worse version of Uber?”
- Self-Driving Cars Bring New Vulnerabilities
Worst still, the network connections and algorithm of the self-driving cars have potential security vulnerabilities with them. In a case where there is a hack to the security of a self-driving car, this can turn out to be a potential weapon which is remotely piloted around.
More so, self-driving cars come with more destructive power for terrorist groups. With this, they can easily manipulate the coordinated flow of many vehicles to carry out their ulterior motives – something that will happen is each of such cars were to be driven by a human who can’t be easily controlled.
Also, with a retrospective look at the history of automobile technology, it is possible that the self-driving car technology will definitely take a long period to gain practical usefulness. Typical to this is the evidence from the evolution of various high-tech feature in cars such as the automatic transmission which were first developed around the 1930s but become reliably affordable in the 1980s. Similarly, airbags which were announced in 1973 weren’t safe and cheap enough as standard equipment in cars not until 1988 – and was later accepted as a regulatory requirement for cars in 1998.
Just like these features, self, driving cars are obviously going to start imperfect, expensive with much difficulty in operation. However, with time and more technological advancement and input, it will gain a wide adoption when they get cheaper and ultimately work better.
With the steps towards this having been taken, it is possible that we a likely to see a more reliable result such as better mobility for those that can afford these cars, but that will come in some decades yet to come. In contrast, some perceived benefits such as better safety, enhanced energy efficiency, uncongested roads, and reduced pollution may not come true until a later time – if only such time will come.
- Self-Driving Cars Will Ultimately Mean Computer-Assisted Drivers
While Waymo and co have their gaze fixed completely on manufacturing cars that are completely driverless, other car manufacturers believe that increasing the levels of autonomy for cars is a step that should be taken one after the other. With this, popular brands such as Toyota, Nissan have a goal of increased autonomy for their cars by the year 2020.
Furthermore, more disastrous scenes are imminent along the line for a car without a driver. This is so because the hand back from human to machine is really a hard nut to crack with this technology since there are tons of functions which human intervention is required to do perfectly – think safety here.
- Self-Driving Cars Have Minimal Federal Safety Regulations
Currently, permits on driverless vehicles are mainly issued by individual cities and states. However, this may work perfectly for the initial testing stages of the driverless vehicles, but it is worrisome as the US doesn’t have a clear federal approach about the self-driving cars.
However, it has been said that members of Congress have come together to trash out some basic issues concerning the self-driving cars. Also, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has come up with some guidelines for the self-driving cars, but the problem with these new technology lies on the lack of well-defined safety guidelines at the moment.
By consequence, what the lack of federal laws on the use of autonomous cars means is that there is a mixture of state laws that are meant to regulate the use of these vehicles – this could this turn out problematic in years to come.
However, to enhance safety about the use of driverless cars, some state makes it compulsory that there must be someone in the driver’s seat even as these autonomous cars are operating on its own. Other states go further to require a gas pedal, brakes and a steering wheel in the car, but some other states do not have such requirements.
Federal oversight over the past years has helped to propagate the innovation of these driverless vehicles in the short term, but on the long run, this oversight can turn out to do more harm than good most particularly for the public as there are no clear and established safety standards for the self-driving cars.
Where there are no federal safety regulations to checkmate the manufacture of self-driving cars, these automakers are invariably left to be the judge in their case as they will be the only people to decide the safety level of these cars for use on the road.
The Populace Is Still Sceptical About Self-Driving Cars
According to a survey, a huge percentage of about 65% of Americans are not certain of what to expect when walking or driving on the same road with autonomous vehicles. Again, another survey by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety found out that about 31% of road users showed so much concern about having to share the road with a car without a driver in it.
However, it is easy to have the public’s opinions, and views changed easily as fully autonomous, and semiautonomous vehicles are gradually becoming a visible possibility. With this, a wide public awareness is needed. Such awareness, however, is seen as earning public trust is a top priority for Ford as they embark on an extensive autonomous vehicle test with members of the public. The step to earning public trust is brought to the forefront as the CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, Sherif Marabky wrote a letter to the US Department of Transportation stating that “developing self-driving cars is not all about a display of technological prowess. This he said is all about earning the trust of the customers as well as the trust of cities where such cars will ultimately be used.”
- Self-Driving Cars Won’t Work Until They Are as Smart as Humans
Computer intelligence can in no way be compared with human intelligence. However, computers maybe perfect and more accurate than human when it comes to individual tasks such as identifying some objects in a picture or playing. Go, such skills are not a general skill that can be compared to what is required on the road.
However, advocates to the self-driving cars happen to see driving more as a ‘Go’ task – one that requires far-less-than human intelligence of the world. In contrary to this view, essays from a legendary roboticist and AI researcher Rodney Brooks in 2017 argued about the short-term practicality of autonomous vehicles. This, he based his argument on the mere numbers of edge cases- unusual situations in which driverless cars would have to handle.
Adding further, Rodney said “even with the best guiding principles put in place to support autonomous vehicles, there will still be perpetual challenges that are beyond what current developers have solved through a deep understanding of networks, and possibly a lot more automated reasoning than the best AI system have so far been expected to display.”
By extension, Rodney submitted that “to get the dream of a driverless car right, we may end up trying to get our cars to be as intelligent as humans are so that it will be able to handle all the edge cases that lie ahead perfectly.”
However, Rodney confessed that he still trusts that driverless vehicles will definitely come to replace human drives. “Human driving may disappear in the lifetimes of many reading this, but it will not happen all in the blink of the eye.”
As the move by automakers to make driverless vehicles become a reality seem to continue with great passion and optimism, lots of argument against how efficient such technology will be in this current era continues to heighten.
However, as this technology continues to receive bricks of progress, it is important for the government to set safety regulations that will bind each automaker in churning out an autonomous vehicle that will not endanger the public.