Self-Driving Cars

10 Things To Know About Self-Driving Cars Source:

Self-driving cars are on their way. Automotive manufacturers from BMW to Ford are ramping up efforts to get self-driving cars on the roads, as are technology companies such as Apple and Google. In fact, Google spent last summer testing their version of the self-driving car on roads throughout California. Conservative estimates forecast that there will be 10 million self-driving cars on North American roads and highways by 2020. The question isn’t will there be self-driving cars, but rather how many people will purchase a self-driving car? As with any technology, it is important for people to educate themselves about the product before buying it. Here then are 10 things everyone should know about self-driving cars.

10. Many Cars Already Have Self-Driving Features

Completely autonomous self-driving cars will be a major leap forward, and they have the potential to revolutionize urban transit in cities around the world. However, self-driving cars are not springing out of thin air. Rather, the first generation of self-driving cars are building incrementally on many of the self-driving features already found in vehicles today. We’re talking here about features such as cruise control, parking assist and other elements that enable cars to accelerate, brake, and steer with limited or no driver involvement. Automakers have been developing more and more autonomous features for cars for years now, and they have all led to the point we’re at now where completely autonomous self-driving cars are set to hit the roads. Source: YouTube

9. The Goal is to Eliminate Driver Error

Many skeptics of self-driving cars fear that the computers used to operate the vehicles will be unreliable and prone to error. However, these skeptics should keep in mind that nothing is more unreliable or prone to error behind the wheel of a car, truck or sport utility vehicle than human beings. From eating and drinking while driving to texting and falling asleep behind the wheel, humans have proven themselves to be terrible drivers. In the U.S. alone, more than 30,000 people die each year from automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And car accidents are the leading cause of death worldwide for people aged 15-24. Nearly half of all people involved in a vehicle collision never even touch their brakes. The bottom line is that the end goal of self-driving cars is to remove the human factor from the driving experience and make the process safer for everyone on streets and highways. Source:

8. Self-Driving Cars Are Programmed to be Cautious

There’s no road rage with self-driving cars. In fact, the prototype self-driving cars developed and tested to-date are deliberately programmed to be cautious, some reviewers say “timid,” on roads and freeways. The cars generally drive slowly and always err on the side of caution in a situation. The cars never respond to aggressive or threatening driving by other motorists, and most are programmed to pull over, stop and wait until a threat to the car or its occupants is eliminated. Google has described its self-driving car as being programmed to be a careful student driver on the road. This all means that people shouldn’t fear being trapped in an aggressive self-driving car that is careening out of control down a street or freeway. Maximum Overdrive this is not. Source:

7. Self-Driving Cars Do Not Look Cool

Gear heads and other people who love the look of a Mustang, convertible Porsche or Ferrari are not likely to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of self-driving cars. These vehicles have not been designed for sex appeal. In fact, the nickname of Google’s self-driving car is the “marshmallow.” This is because the car literally looks like a marshmallow. While some reviewers have labeled the current version of self-driving cars as “cute,” they are pretty small and soft looking. A muscle car, this ain’t. There is some method to the madness though. Apparently the soft, gentle design is meant to disarm other motorists on the road and make the cars seem cute, almost friendly to humans. Studies show that people are less likely to harm an object if they find it adorable, or if it has a face or other human traits and qualities. Source:

6. Northern Climates Give Self-Driving Cars Fits

Bad news for Canadians. Snow, ice and cold temperatures cause major problems for self-driving cars, which have trouble navigating through blizzards and adjusting to winter road conditions. This means that southern U.S. states such as Arizona, California and Florida are more likely to see an influx of self-driving cars before northern states such as Vermont, Michigan and Montana. Manufacturers have been testing self-driving cars almost exclusively in hot, dry climates such as California and Spain, and winter road conditions have been deemed so problematic for driverless cars that companies such as BMW and Google haven’t even bothered to try and address the situation. The focus now is on getting self-driving cars active and on the road rather than on making it adaptable to extreme winter driving conditions. Source:

5. The Technology Used is Impressive

Self-driving cars are able to navigate city streets and roadways, and to interpret their surroundings, using an impressive combination of technology. While the exterior, or body of the cars, may look a little lame. The technology under the hood is state-of-the art. Self-driving cars use a combination of three-dimensional laser mapping, radar and global positioning systems (GPS) to get where they are going, obey the rules of the road, and skirt around obstacles and potential dangers. And this is not the same GPS that is currently found in today’s vehicles. This is advanced, military caliber GPS that takes mapping to the next level. The reality is that a self-driving car will likely know the streets of a city better than its owner, and it is programmed to always take the quickest and easiest route to a destination. These features will only improve in subsequent generations of the cars and other self-driving vehicles. Source:

4. Self-Driving Cars Run on Electricity

Self-driving cars currently in development run 100% on electricity. There are no hybrid versions, and no need for gasoline. This makes sense as there is a growing movement towards electric vehicles throughout the global automotive industry. It also eliminates the confusion that could be caused if the self-driving car needed to find a gas station to pull into. However, running on electricity does limit the distance self-driving cars can go. Currently, self-driving cars have a range of about 100 miles. This means that people won’t be taking them on long road trips any time soon. Improvements in battery technology and battery life should help improve the distance of self-driving cars in the future. But for now, they are best used for short commuting distances in urban settings. Source:

3. They Can See Pedestrians

Among the many fears associated with self-driving cars is that they will not be able to see people on sidewalks or at street crossings and accidentally run them over. This could not be further from the truth. The radar in self-driving cars is so powerful that it allows the car to see pedestrians both directly in front of them and at a distance. In fact, the radar enables the self-driving car to see through objects including parked cars and buildings. This means that a self-driving car has superior vision to a human being, which has to rely on their line of sight. A self-driving car can literally see a young child who is walking or standing between two parked cars, as well as pedestrians walking on a sidewalk around the corner of an office building. In this way, self-driving cars have a 360 degree image of their surroundings at all times, making it hyper-aware of people. Source:

2. Human Instinct is the Missing Ingredient

If there is one remaining challenge facing self-driving cars (other than snow and ice) it is the fact that they lack human instincts. Driverless cars can be taught, or programmed, to do most things, including anticipating what people walking down the street might do and to make decisions on their own. However, these cars are still machines and, as such, they lack human instincts. And this can be a problem, especially when it comes to avoiding an accident. Self-driving cars, for example, will not break the law even if it means avoiding a collision or other accident. They lack the human ability to make split second decisions and to react based on instinct alone. In this way, self-driving cars are very different from the human motorists who drive cars now. Source:

1. Self-Driving Cars Could Greatly Help the Elderly and Disabled

One of the key markets for self-driving cars is going to be the elderly and disabled who are not able to drive cars themselves. The driverless car has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of these people, many of whom find themselves housebound or immobile because they are unable to operate a motor vehicle on their own. In the future, self-driving cars could shuttle senior citizens to medical appointments or take disabled adults to work. Most automakers are designing their self-driving cars with this demographic of the population in mind—adding features that will be attractive to the elderly and disabled. There is also talk that self-driving cars could drive themselves home after taking a person to work or an appointment, eliminating the need for parking lots in the future. There are so many potential applications for self-driving cars that it boggles the mind. However they are used, the future of driving is likely to be very different than it is today, and, potentially, a lot safer. Source:

Jack Sackman

Jack Sackman

Jack Sackman has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2013.