What was once a fantasy or seen in a sci-fi movie has become a reality today. Companies such as Tesla and Google are already scrambling them up, and they are going to change the landscape of the automotive industry. Oddly enough, the history of self-driving cars dates back to 1900s. Yes, it is not a new phenomenon spread by the tech giants only. In 1925, Houdina Radio Control demonstrated a remote controlled car, and in 1958, Chrysler Imperial was the first car with cruise control.
It was in the 1970s and 80s that the first type of autonomous cars that we see today came into being. The most notable development came in 2009 with Google’s initiative. By 2014, all the major companies such as BMW, General Motors, and Ford jumped on the bandwagon. Today, Google’s subsidiary Waymo’s self-driving cars have completed eight million miles and are checking on one million miles every month.
The consumers are excited, and so are the manufacturers. You might also be thinking that I would scrap my car for cash as soon as I can get my hands on the autonomous vehicle. This way you can get rid of driving for good. However, are we ready yet to rely on these cars? Only recently, a self-driving Uber that also had a backup driver killed a pedestrian while the company was testing the car. A similar incident happened with Tesla, twice.
Recently, Tesla’s car crashed into a concrete highway divider and burst into flames. The car was reportedly on autopilot mode. These accidents make us rethink whether the new technology would provide more harm than ease. The recent events show that it is going to take some time to perfect the technology, but nonetheless, self-driving cars will change the entire dynamics. Moreover, they will also have a huge economic impact. Here is how the system will change:
A shift in rules
As soon as the driverless cars make their way to the roads, the traffic rules and regulations will need major updates. There are no rules and regulations right now, and it would be a big task to modernize them. According to Philippe Crist, the project manager of the international transport forum, the safety regulation of the automated cars would be similar to regular cars. However, before it was just the driver and the car and now it would include all the algorithms and codes involved in the system. Moreover, it will also include: “the fitness of the sensor systems that are providing input to the vehicle (and) replacing human eyes and human ears.”
Some states have already started working on the laws. Recently, USDOT released an updated guideline regarding autonomous vehicles. The report covers various measures regarding how to approach these cars.
Updating the roads
When it comes to the new technology, the change does not stop on the laws, but the roads need to be updated as well. Automated systems acquire information from the road, interpret them and then respond appropriately. In certain cases, the speed and accuracy of these systems may even be better than that of humans. Like we all know that lasers can see in the dark. However, there are certain constraints as well. For instance, they cannot pick up human cues or the camera may be blocked by sunlight or fog.
Today, the roads are built for human drivers. They have intersections, dedicated turn lanes, etc. As suggested, driverless cars won’t need large lanes, they would be efficient in narrow lanes as well. Moreover, they will not need road strippings or signage that humans rely on; the GPS system and the vehicle sensors would suffice.
Less parking hassle
The most dreaded thing about driving a car is finding a parking space and that it why we mostly avoid going somewhere at rush hours. We want to save ourselves from the misery of finding a space. However, with autonomous cars, this will change completely. Your driverless car will drop you and will go to find a place for itself. Moreover, these cars will save a lot of parking space by cramming in because there is no need to open doors. You will not have to leave space for the cars to drive out; one AV car can signal the other to make space.
Less maintenance hassle
Whether with or without the driver, all machines breakdown at some point in time and hence need maintenance. However, with autonomous cars, it would be less of a hassle for you. The system will upgrade itself over the web just like your smartphone does. The manufacturers will probably use predictive maintenance so that your car will report any malfunctions beforehand. Moreover, it will also schedule maintenance for you.
The autonomous car industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Research shows that the industry is expected to reach $54.23 billion this year and will touch $556.7 billion by 2026.
There is no doubt that self-driving cars will make our lives easier by taking away the burden of driving from us. Moreover, they are also expected to reduce the rate of accidents caused due to human errors and will minimize carbon dioxide emissions.
However, people are still skeptical of the new technology. It will take time to adopt it completely because new technology comes with its own risks. Apart from adjusting with other human drivers and possible risk of accidents, there is a threat that these cars can be hacked. They can be attacked by thieves, terrorists or hijackers.
Nonetheless, these cars will disrupt the entire automotive industry. The buying and selling pattern will also change. This is because the value of the car will depend on different factors than the ones that are used to judge regular cars.
They would also interrupt related industries such as taxis or delivery systems. The auto insurance industry will be affected the most because the blame will shift to the auto manufacturers instead of the drivers.