There are millions of vehicles on the road and each of them is a potential liability. Human drivers make mistakes and cause thousands of accidents every year. Many of them are minor, but some are life-changing. Google and dozens of other high-tech companies, however, think they have a solution. They believe that clever software can eliminate many of the traditional problems of driving and make life better for everyone.
Naturally, Google isn’t the only player in the race to build cars that drive themselves. But it is a leading light and, according to many, it has the best technology on the market so far.
Google is actually already leading the charge. For several years now, it’s been running a pilot scheme in Scottsdale, Arizona. Branded taxis pick people up from the roadside and deposit them at destinations in a pre-defined geographic region.
Google chose the location because of the style and layout of the roads. Paved areas are wide, there are relatively few obstructions, and the traffic rules are simple. Google’s car’s trundle around the streets at a snail’s pace. But, critically, they are driving themselves.
In this post, we take a look at some of the ways that autonomous vehicles could make the world and your life a better place.
No More Parking Problems
Nothing is worse than going to a new city and then spending ages trying to figure out where to park. It’s a nightmare. Many people circle for hours before finally finding that elusive available space.
Autonomous vehicles, however, largely eliminate this problem. Instead of you having to personally find a parking space, autonomous vehicles could do that for you. Then, when you need to be collected, they just drive to your location and pick you up. An autonomous vehicle can essentially continually drive around while you are engaged. So it is even a solution if there isn’t a single parking spot in your city.
Google’s project could also lead to safer roads. Statistics from the NHTSA suggest that driver error is the leading cause of accidents in the country. So eliminating the driver from the equation altogether could dramatically enhance safety. According to data, around 94 percent of serious crashes occur because drivers make mistakes. Mechanical errors and problems are almost unheard of.
If autonomous vehicles never made mistakes of their own, they might be able to reduce the accident rate by over 90 percent. That would mean safer road use for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. Many major health and safety organizations are championing autonomous vehicles as a potent tool for reducing the number of deaths under 50.
Improved Daily Commute
Why do most wealthy and successful people hire drivers? Usually, it is because driving through congested city traffic is unpleasant. It is much better to just absorb yourself in a newspaper.
Well, in the future, autonomous technologies could make that a reality. Driving an hour to and from work might not be such a draining experience after all. What’s more, it could actually provide workers with more time to be productive. They could check and respond to all their emails before they even got into the office.
Nobody is saying that autonomous technology will mean the end of vehicle personalisation. In fact, demand for license plates from outlets like Platehunter will likely remain high. The government is still going to want to track vehicles for a variety of purposes. To the contrary, autonomy will probably make vehicles even better than they are now. The emphasis will shift away from the driving experience and more towards the comfort of the passenger. Early autonomous vehicles will still have controls. But eventually, they will disappear as the technology improves.
Cars will begin to resemble luxury living rooms. They will come with fully-equipped cabins and be more like riding in a limo than a regular vehicle. So autonomy will change how automakers differentiate their vehicles.
Lower Carbon Emissions
If you’re somebody who cares about emissions, then they are another reason to love autonomous technology. Going electric and sharing vehicles in the community could reduce greenhouse gases by up to 80 percent according to some studies.
Autonomous technology is a key green technology. Without it, greenhouse emissions from private transport could rise by a further 50 percent by 2050, which may usher in an era of climate destruction.
Right now, it seems very much like electrification of motor vehicles is going to happen. Prices continue to plunge, and many people are now finding electric cars to be more reliable than their gas-powered counterparts. However, whether autonomy will really take off is still a matter for debate. Engineers solved 99 percent of the problems that they face. But there is a “long tail” of random events on the roads that they may not be able to account for.
Reducing The Need To Travel By Air
For many, air transport is the best option for long journeys. It’s quick and relatively cheap.
But now car companies are working on concepts that will encourage people to make more use of their vehicles on longer journeys. Many interstate highways remain surprisingly free of traffic, primarily because of the long distances between locations.
Volvo announced its 360c concept car back in 2018. The idea was to create a vehicle that would incorporate all the technologies required to allow it to mimic a first class cabin on a plane. Because it was autonomous, passengers could eat, sleep and work while travelling along the roads, without the need to pass through an airport.
Volvo’s concept was quite forward-thinking. The company imagined people ordering cars via an app and then having service stations that pre-equipped them with food and drink for the journey. Passengers would then tuck into freshly-prepared meals as their journeys go underway.
Just as on a plane, seating would recline too. So you would be able to sleep, just as you can on a long-haul flight. Volvo’s hope is that people can arrive at their destinations looking fresh-faced and ready to deal with whatever challenges they face.