Media reports now often feature driverless cars, with talking heads of their developers saying how wonderful such cars will be. The motoring public by and large seem less enthused. Do we really need such vehicles? Are they even feasible? And will they deliver a future without collisions?
Technology continues to move forward. If you consider a car from just 30 years ago, the number of new features that have become ‘as-standard’ is staggering; yet, fundamentally, little has changed, and humans remain in control.
Many of the new technologies incorporated into new-build cars have impacted road safety positively, but the chief cause of road accidents has not been altered. The chief cause? The driver behind the wheel. No matter how safe you build a car, no matter the amount of safety features you include, as long as an imperfect human remains in control of the vehicle, the danger of driver error remains very real. Would an AI do a better job? Would on-board computers read the road and interact with other vehicles in a safer way?
Driverless cars will make use of crash avoidance tech, rooted in the parking sensors we have become familiar with in recent decades. The latest applications of crash avoidance technology give drivers alerts and guidance, but similar alerts are being fed into the computers of driverless prototypes. With what result?
The performance of these prototypes has pleased the engineers working on them, though the driving public will need time and further assurance to even begin to be comfortable around them. Indeed, public opinion may revolt against the very idea of handing control of speeding vehicles to computers; it remains to be seen.
But until the matter becomes clear, the development and research conducted in this field will feed back into the mainstream of vehicle tech, affording new safety features that will assist drivers in driving safely, acting as amplifiers to the still-human eyes and ears.
It may take a generation (or two) but as road-users become more used to, and more reliant upon, such technologies, the ‘soft-advent’ of driverless cars may be achieved.
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