Self-Driving Cars: Practical or Sci-Fi?

In the modern age, cars have become a necessity for completing our daily commutes to work and other places. As the number of car grows with each passing year, the process of driving becomes more stressful due to greater frequency of traffic jams and longer rush hours. This is where self-driving cars can step in. The idea that a car can drive itself without any human interaction is still novel but there have been developments to change this situation. Today, we would explore the current capabilities of self-driving cars along with their future, benefits and challenges.

Degree of Autonomy

The degree of a cars autonomy can be broken down in 6 levels. Level 0 is your standard car where the driver needs to do everything while level 5 is the complete autonomous car that does not need any human interaction. Level 2 and 3 (which offers some degree of automation) has been achieved by some cars and it is expected that level 4, where the car is completely autonomous under some circumstances, should be achieved in the next few years.

How it works?

Self-driving cars revolve around the principles of AI and machine learning. They make use of sensors to detect their surroundings and make decisions on the basis of their coding and previous learning. These decisions form the basis of the instructions given to different parts of the car such as the steering wheel, brakes and accelerator.  The quality of decisions are refined by improving the predictive models and algorithms at the heart of the self-driving car’s AI software. The AI can also possess ability to communicate with other self-driving vehicles and components of smart infrastructure like traffic signals. This, however, would need a large overhaul of the whole road transport system and, therefore, may take longer to implement.

Benefits

There are a host of benefits when it comes to self-driving cars. It is believed that accidents, in general, can be reduced dramatically through elimination of “human errors”. Furthermore, it can allow the disabled, elderly and others incapable of driving themselves to have access to their own transport. Overall, it is believed that self-driving cars can create an efficient transport system that can operate with greater fluidity and lesser hold-ups.

Challenges

The concept of self-driving cars is not without its problems. Despite the automation, there have been instances of accidents during testing. Granted that this can be addressed through adjustments but perhaps the greater challenge is of a moral nature. There are scenarios where an accident becomes unavoidable. In such cases, there is much debate on how the AI would distinguish between protecting those in the car from avoiding to hit the pedestrians. This introduces many new emotional parameters which may be difficult for an AI to compute.

According to most manufacturers, it is expected by the early 2020s some form of self-driving cars would be on the roads. This change can be deemed as imminent and quite close to reality. The important thing is to move forward with it in a manner that not only serves humanity but also protects the environment from potential hazards.

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