Awaiting the Arrival of Autonomous Cars

Autonomous vehicles are no longer the stuff of science fiction. They have arrived and it would seem that they are here to stay.

All the major car firms have announced plans to begin selling driverless vehicles over the next few years while some countries have already passed legislation permitting their operation on public roads. The recent opening of the 23-acre ‘M City’ at the University of Michigan in the US only highlights this increased focus on driverless car technology, built so researchers could test autonomous cars in real world situations.

It could be argued that we’re already in fact halfway there with existing telematics and the huge amount of internal and external vehicle information that GPS trackers already provide. A recent article on the website of GPS tracking experts, CanTrack made us curious to find out more about the current state of autonomous vehicles.

A Driverless World

Proponents of driverless vehicles paint a picture of a new motoring world where data will drive your car rather the person sitting in the driving seat. Autonomous vehicles would perform every driving function while simultaneously monitoring road conditions during their trip.

People who cannot drive could take advantage of this technology to move around while traffic and parking costs would diminish, accidents and CO2 emissions would decrease. Autonomous cars would provide time and cost savings that would benefit everyone.

But are the potential benefits of autonomous cars really so great and what kind of disruptions will they cause?

Sit Back and Relax with Autonomous Vehicles

If autonomous vehicles work as advertised, driver stress would be virtually eliminated. Drivers could sit back and relax during long trips. Traffic accidents would decrease substantially as drivers would be less tired and less prone to taking risks. Crash costs and expensive insurance premiums would be reduced considerably.

Drivers would also be able to work while literally on the road so employee productivity would go right through the (sun) roof. Non-drivers would have massively increased mobility and the need for public transport would diminish accordingly, saving states vast sums of tax dollars. Time spent dropping off passengers or finding a parking space for courier drivers would be cut down by the parking functions of an autonomous vehicle and thus increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing pollution emissions.

Sit Up and Pay Attention to the Risks

However you may need to close the sun roof for a moment while we consider the disadvantages of autonomous vehicles.

The initial purchase costs of vehicles would inevitably increase considerably. The IT systems and data required to run driverless cars would need far more sophisticated vehicle equipment to service them as well as improved motorway and road infrastructure for them to run on.

While there would be overall safety gains, there would also be new risks introduced into the driving equation with potentially fatal system failures affecting autonomous cars. There would in addition be a danger of external interference with driverless cars including losing driving control to hackers or terrorists.

Data concerns would increase to begin with. Could you trust governments with the type and quantity of personal and corporate data required for and available from autonomous cars? And of course hackers could steal proprietary information through any security loopholes. Environmentally perhaps driverless vehicles might even encourage far more trips on the road thereby increasing pollution overall.

There’s certainly plenty to think about as we await the mainstream arrival of autonomous cars.

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