The road ahead for self driving cars

Many people were caught unaware when tech companies such as Google and Apple stated that they were developing driverless cars. With fossil fuels running out and many auto accidents resulting from human error, it’s only natural that human innovation will change that.

The prospects of having a steering turn itself automatically as the person sitting at the front seat catches a nap is an exciting one indeed. However, the developments do come with its own issues.

The Problem of Emissions
One of the most pressing issues in the transportation sector has been the rising emissions contributing to global warming. As a matter of fact, in the list of largest sources of greenhouse gases in the United States, it comes only second to industrial emissions. U.S. sees more than 2 billion barrels of fuel used in cars every single day. The question is, will autonomous cars change this?

Seemingly, yes.

Tesla RoadsterFirstly, looking at the growing popularity of electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla and Nissan it can be safely predicted that by the time autonomous technology is implemented for public use, most cars would have shifted to cleaner sources of energy.

Even if they don’t, it can be predicted that intelligent cars might actually manage to save more fuel than man. Making cars more intelligent would mean better efficiency due to elimination of the human error factor in driving. Besides, cars would interact with each other and exchange information. This wireless communication will enable cars to relay information regarding traffic across the network thus facilitating commute through the most efficient path.

This will invariably bring down fuel consumption and ensure a smoother ride among other things.

The Other Benefits

Autonomous cars will make carpooling easier and also make larger vehicles practical on the road. Thus, number of people inside each car is set to rise thus helping to create an efficient transportation network. Lesser number of cars will be required on the road as each car will transport more people. As the number of cars plying on the road decreases, the emissions will gradually decrease.

The Other Problems

One other issue that needs to be addressed for autonomous cars is the issue of safety. Certain tests have shown that in case the computer malfunctions, there might be an accident. Besides, the cars being completely run by a computer are also susceptible to cyber attacks. Having said all this, autonomous cars can potentially make our roads accident proof.

So, where do we stand?

The benefits of saving millions of lives which are otherwise lost every year due to car accidents outweigh any other issue that might exist. Autonomous cars will allow cars to ply faster and much more safely as compared to what we see now. Google’s autonomous car project released their accident reports after much prodding by non profit public interest group Consumer Watchdog.

Their car, which runs across California, saw 14 minor accidents over a period of 6 years having clogged over 1.8 million miles. If these figures are not reassuring enough, Google also said that all these accidents were caused by factors other than the autonomous car technology developed by them. Safety on the roads is set to increase manifold with the introduction of autonomous vehicles as compared to today’s situation.