The potential for driverless cars to revolutionise how we approach transport has been discussed for a significant amount of time. The development of automated prototypes by Google and other companies, and the increase in part automated cars more generally, now means that it’s likely we’ll see driverless cars on the roads at some point in the future. However, there are still many questions over the legality, technology, and problems that driverless cars could cause in terms of insurance and privacy.
Recent debates in the United States have been held in Washington over how driverless cars could be made into a more practical reality under law. Transportation Committee hearings have indicated enthusiasm for supporting driverless cars, while also noting the importance of avoiding cyber crimes and liabilities. These discussions have largely focused on the next significant leap in driverless cars, compared to the well established use of lane departure warnings, parking sensors, and part automated technology for steering and cruise control already available on the road.
What we’re likely to see from driverless cars, then, is gradual change, rather than a major leap forward in terms of full automation. Several recent cars, which include the Lexus LS 460 L, are using self parking technology alongside existing features. The Google car, perhaps the most famous driverless prototype, is also still developing the best ways to adjust its 3D mapping and braking technology.
Other near future technologies that are being refined for driverless cars include Mobileye camera devices, which have recently been tested with Audis, and use computer vision to automate cars in single lanes, while adjusting speeds depending on traffic lights. It’s also likely that the future of driverless cars will see an increase in black box recorders that can monitor car performance when under computer control, and compare it to the efficiency of conventional driving.
The future of driverless cars will depend, in part, on questions over energy efficiency and cost. It’s possible that driverless cars could be more fuel efficient than current cars, as they’ll be lighter, more able to recognise traffic jams, and capable of finding the nearest parking spot without losing fuel while trying to find it. However, the other side to the question of energy use and driverless cars relates to there being more cars on the road, and a resulting increase in emissions.
Some other concerns that will eventually have to be resolved for driverless cars include privacy: will hackers be able to break into an automated car’s software and take control of it? Similarly, how will car insurance work if there’s been a collision between two automated cars, or one automated and one manually driven? The implications of a driverless future similarly involve major infrastructural changes in terms of road laws, liability, and whether it’ll become obligatory to convert to an automated car as part of lower insurance premiums.