The Many Reasons Why Driverless Cars Don’t Exist Yet…
‘Why driverless cars don’t exist yet’ might sound like the start of a controversial statement. But many motorists don’t seem to understand just how far off the technology really is. In fact, survey after survey has demonstrated that drivers are confused by marketing jargon and the true capabilities of ‘autonomous’ car features. But if you think critically, it’s obvious why driverless cars don’t populate our roads yet. Here’s why…
Suppose driverless vehicles do reach us before the end of diesel and petrol powertrains. What’s to stop a budding vandal from clogging the exhaust pipe up with something? The same goes for damaging tyres, windows or other forms of damage. Will all of these be detectable via an on-board computer?
Refusing To Get Out
Imagine a drunk passenger falling asleep or a homeless person refusing to get out, how would an autonomous vehicle deal with these situations? Presumably, an on-board system or a manual operator would instruct the occupant to leave. How effective this would be, however, remains to be seen.
We live in an age in which online security has become a pressing issue. Some of the world’s largest governments and businesses are constantly under attack by hackers. This goes for mobile phones, planes and (eventually) driverless cars. Criminals and terrorists will no doubt see the vehicles as fair game. Driverless cars will need to be be able to withstand a barrage of frequent hacking attempts.
Driverless cars rely upon complex computers in order to make safe and rational decisions. The problem is they can become ‘stuck.’ In America, a driverless car became confused whilst taking a right turn. It came across a double parked lorry and simply stopped in a busy junction; forcing the human driver to intervene. These are the quandaries that are baffling the brightest boffins around.
False Road Markings
Driverless cars use sensors keep in lane and to stay on the road. If someone were to tamper with these, its ability to navigate would be greatly mitigated. It could even be led down inappropriate paths and off-road if false markings were laid down. How will driverless cars be able to differentiate between what’s genuine and what isn’t?
Antagonistic Human Drivers
If the behaviour of human drivers in Arizona is anything to go by, driverless cars aren’t popular. A number of motorists have taken to running them off of the road or ‘testing’ their technology. They do this by briefly obstructing the vehicle or approaching it aggressively. Whilst this sort of behaviour will arguably become less prevalent as we become more used to the vehicles, it’ll be a problem in the early period.
Let’s say you’ve gone out on a Friday evening and drunk a little too much. You get into a standard, human-driven taxi and suddenly lose everything you’ve drunk on the back seats. In this instance, the taxi driver would almost certainly charge you a large fee and take his vehicle to be cleaned. But how would a driverless car detect this? For vehicles being used for commercial purposes, the cleanliness and hygiene of their interiors will be exceptionally important.
The sensors on a driverless cars are essentially their ‘eyes.’ If they’re obstructed, they can’t see. Whether it’s debris, exceptionally poor weather or sabotage, there’s a host of ways this could happen. What will a driverless car do in this situation and how will it deal with the problem? It could alert occupants to which sensor is obstructed, but will it be safe for an occupant / customer to get out and fix it?
Driverless cars will need to be able to react appropriately to the vehicles of emergency services, including ambulances, police forces and firefighters. But how will it differentiate between genuine sirens and something bought from a novelty shop?
Imagine feeling mischievous and summoning dozens of autonomous vehicles to a single point in a city. It’d cause chaos on the roads and mass-confusion. It’d be like a very light form of hacking, but will almost certainly happen sooner or later. Not only will the vehicles need to be exceptionally well designed, the apps they employ commercially will have to be watertight, too.
Elon Musk claims that Tesla’s cars are driverless. They’re not, which is why Tesla has won court cases against drivers of their vehicles who crash whilst relying on built-in, autonomous tech. If you’re hands aren’t on the wheel, you’re too blame. Huge amounts of progress has been made as global corporations pour billions into funding and researching the technology and science. But we’re just not there yet. Why? Because of the reasons above. Getting a car to stick to a road and change lanes safely is only a fraction of the problem.
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