How can we push past public fear and political red tape to get to the beautiful world that awaits when no one drives anymore?
Imagine a city where cars roam free, dropping off their relaxed occupants and then sliding back into a sea of slow-moving but non-stop traffic. Cyclists weave through, unmolested, and pedestrian crossings flip to the green Walk sign often, almost magically syncing up with gaps in traffic.
The promise is seductive. You’ll never get hit by a drunk driver, a texting teen, or just someone distracted by their bad day. You’ll never have to circle the block looking for a parking space. Sidewalks will double in size because on-street parking is no longer needed outside of residential areas.
A driverless future seems more and more likely. It’s not just the success of Google’s self-driving cars, or the promise of huge environmental benefits. Today, our cars all but drive themselves already. Cruise control and anti-lock brakes have been joined by lane-detection, and some cars will put a computerized foot brakes if the car in front suddenly slows.
“Look at adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings,” says Christian A. Strømmen, an interaction designer from Norway. “Once you get used to it, it feels so awkward driving without.”
That is, every aspect of the cars we drive “ourselves” is already automated: steering, speed, braking. Famously, Google’s self-driving cars have clocked up 1.7 million miles over six years, all without major incident.
“In more than a million miles of real-world testing, autonomous vehicles have been involved in around a dozen crashes (with no major injuries),” says John Nielsen, AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, “all of which occurred when a human driver was in control, or the vehicle was struck by another car.”
Self-driving cars are already way better than people-piloted cars, so what’s the trouble?
“Current laws never envisioned a vehicle that can drive itself, and there are numerous liability issues that need to be ironed out,” Nielsen says. “If an autonomous vehicle gets in a collision, who is responsible? The “driver,” their insurance company, the automaker that built the vehicle, or the third-party supplier that provided the autonomous control systems?”
How will the laws adapt? And how will we adapt? People are hesitant to embrace change, but the change that driverless cars will bring to our cities and lifestyles is enormous. What will it take to get there?
The Latest on: Vehicular automation
via Google News
The Latest on: Vehicular automation
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