Guest Post by Mark Daniels
It has not been long since the latest round of accidents with self-driving cars was announced. A woman was run over in Arizona by a self-driving car, and a Bay Area resident passed away when his car autonomously drove into a highway barricade. The reaction from local residents in cities like San Diego has been one that can be considered unconvinced. One poll by the San Diego Union-Tribune showed that only 28 percent of San Diegans felt comfortable allowing self-driving cars in their neighborhood.
Therefore, while the industry is busy touting a brighter tomorrow that includes commercial trucks and fleet vehicles all arriving at your service without any scheduler or guidance other than a smartphone app, there are plenty of drivers that have trouble thinking of a time when they will actually give up the ability to drive their own vehicle. It is simply an adjustment that for many, seems to go too far.
Meanwhile, some of the investigative work around at least a couple of the accidents in the self-driving industry is said to be pointing to sabotage as the root cause for the incident occurring in the first place. Rather than rush that type of talk out into the public eye, manufacturers are continuing to try and create perfect data that can show precisely what is going on at any given time so that they can avoid future anomalies.
How Much Independence Is Enough?
Aside from convenience that creates time for other things to be worked on during a commute, the primary reason that self-driving autos make sense is that the highway and city streets should actually be safer when more and more cars are self-driving.
Since human drivers aren’t quite interested in releasing complete control of the vehicle, just where is the point that they will feel happy when a car contains automation features?
The early answer seems to be that retaining the ability to override a self-driving experience is the preference for almost 4/5 drivers on the road, an interesting statistic given the number of manufacturers interested in selling cars with self-driving features on car lots across the country.
Who is Looking Forward to the Self-Driving Car?
There does seem to be quite a bit of acceptance in the marketplace for concepts that provide a total assisted driving experience. Jaguar, for example, has a feature that uses neural and physiological sensors in the dash to determine when a driver is going to change the radio station. Based upon their thought patterns, the car supposedly can tell which station the driver actually wants and select it for them without the human having to reach across the console and create a potential safety hazard.
Historically, there was a radar feature called the Cyclops in the 1950s that could switch your car’s headlights into low-beam mode whenever it sensed an oncoming car. The problem was that an oncoming car would often get the brunt of your radar, creating an unsettling experience for them.
It isn’t that different from the old radar guns that the police used. Over time, it became understood that some parties had trouble when radar was near them. This has also been observed in airplanes, where the concept of ‘painting’ an aircraft with radar has been known to create operational and functional problems for the people flying the craft.
Fortunately, automakers in the 00s came up with radar that isn’t supposed to make people dizzy or cause health problems. As the number of patents with safer radar went up, the early adopters from Silicon Valley and other locations started to show their interest.
Additionally, buoyed by the fact that Google’s Waymo testing has been relatively uneventful in terms of tragedy, many of those who are tech-savvy have tried to avail themselves of any opportunity to try out Google’s offerings. Positive results have therefore been achieved in Arizona, where the company allowed families to test their self-driving minivans free for a long period.
In addition to tech people that want tomorrow’s future to arrive today, there are plenty of companies that are banking upon the notion that hybrids or electric vehicles combined with self-driving features can create a revolution in their deliveries regionally. In some cases, the building out of new, regional distribution network is already factoring self-driving heavily into the equation.