Safe Driving Will Be Important For Years To Come
Every major automaker is working hard to advance the technology of self-driving vehicles. Google has also made a highly publicized entrance into the field of autonomous cars. The hope is that technology can advance far enough to prevent the thousands of car accidents every year caused by driver error. While that may someday be true, autonomous vehicles are probably farther in the future than many people believe. It will continue to be important to teach young drivers how to safely operate a motor vehicle.
The leading technology in the field is impressive. Several companies have developed vehicles capable of steering, braking, accelerating and generally negotiating highway traffic with no assistance from the driver. But to realize the safety benefits of fully automated vehicles, the devices must be cost-effective and they must work for every driving situation. Some of the top devices currently being tested do not meet these qualifications.
Google cars are becoming a more common sight on California roads. These cars use a 3-D imaging technology to analyze the world around the vehicle. The devices currently being used cost roughly $80,000. That figure alone would put the car out of reach for the vast majority of consumers. In addition, automated cars are not currently capable of adjusting to the various driving situations that people encounter on a day-to-day basis. Software can detect the presence of a pedestrian. It cannot yet measure the intent of a child who might be about to dart onto the road. Attentive human drivers are still necessary to complete the complicated tasks involved in safe driving.
Distracted driving is a consistent problem. That problem would likely become worse if drivers were asked to always be ready to override an automated system. How many drivers would be able to maintain full attention to the road while the car did 95 percent of the driving? When the automated devices did fail, the chances that it would lead to an accident would likely be high.
Source: MIT Technology Review, " Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think," by Will Knight, 22 October 2013