Back in the day, the idea of driverless cars was like a dream – one that seemed more futuristic than feasible, but today, it’s almost reality. Already, modern cars are built with semi-autonomous driver-assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control, parking assist, and it’s only a matter of time before a completely self-driving car is released for public use.
So, are driverless vehicles going to be a thing? Yes. Eventually. However, there are a few hurdles car manufacturers have to grapple with – which can further delay or prevent the use of driverless technology altogether.
The Human Factor
Driverless car prototypes are built with sensors and cameras to detect objects and get data about the road. This is useful for navigation. But other human road users are unpredictable that autonomous cars still can’t appreciate. People make little driving errors on the road, which are mostly and easily picked up on by other human drivers; driverless cars, on the other hand, do not account for this.
A self-driving car is at risk when, for instance, a driver runs a red light, or inattentively runs into an autonomous car. As long as there is no plan B for human road users and a way for autonomous cars to adapt, public use is still farther away than we anticipated.
Vulnerability to Hacking
Did you know that car hacking is already a thing – though self-driving cars are not fully in operation? One can only imagine the extent to which this would go when robot cars are released. It poses a real security challenge that manufacturing companies and governments have to come to terms with.
There’s another danger in the operation of driverless cars, this time it’s the sensors. Why go through the trouble to hack car tech when the sensors can be confused with misleading road signs. When a stop sign is manipulated and the sensors are misled, the results can be catastrophic.
Car Behaviour in Life-threatening Situations
It is still not certain how driverless cars are to react in an emergency. Since car manufacturers have not been able to imitate human reaction in life-threatening situations, driverless cars pose a safety risk.
Car manufacturers have to teach these cars to imitate the behaviour of human drivers when faced with difficult situations and that’s not going to be a walk in the park. It would take a lot of research and road-testing, to get right. This also means there’s a lot of time and resources still to be spent.
There’s also the need for connected car technology and car-to-infrastructure technology. This hasn’t been done yet and sensors can’t be relied on to provide all vital data for effective and efficient road navigation.
Although there is still some fine-tuning to be done before self-driving cars can be released for public use, places like Quebec and Ontario already allow road tests on public roads. This is, however, under strict conditions – one of which is the presence of a driver who can take over the wheel at any time. It will take a few more years before the autonomous tech is ‘perfected’ and until then, we can only benefit from semi-autonomous vehicles.