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Self-Driving Cars: Is the future as bright as it sounds?

The future of transportation is autonomous cars. However, many people still do not believe enough in these cars to entrust them with their safety or their families. So today, I want to talk about what this technology is, how does it work and how it will change the future.


People are continuously talking more and more about autonomous cars, the cars of the future that we all have in mind because of films like "I, robots" for example. The truth is that this concept is still a bit far away. However, these vehicles are beginning to be a reality without being as sophisticated yet as those in the movies. But that is a good sign, right?


First of all, you have to know what it means when we talk about autonomous cars. By definition, we are talking of a vehicle equipped with a technology capable of imitating human capacities for handling and control and perceiving its environment acting as a consequence of it. In other words, it is about cars that will take us from point A to point B without having to use the steering wheel to act as drivers. But the origin of autonomous vehicles is by no means recent. In fact, since the 1940s, countless vehicle guidance tests have been carried out, while in the 1980s, via radar, obstacles began to be detected. Today they are capable of making long journeys without a person's help, even turning a circuit in less time than that of a human driver, per example. In this case, autonomous cars that will be sold to the general public incorporate a set of technologies that make the experience much safer, the recognition of movement by cameras and laser detection systems are some that stand out.





And how do autonomous cars work? These most advanced recognition systems are fast enough to act in entirely unforeseen situations such as running into a pedestrian who does not cross the zebra crossing, cyclists who do not respect the signs, or with trucks parked in the second row. Companies such as Google, one of the companies that are already pioneers in this sector, are developing compelling software to differentiate all kinds of objects or road users and other vehicles. And this object recognition system is then joined to software models that will tell the car how to act in each situation. Precisely for this reason, Google itself assures that autonomous cars have a differential advantage over real drivers, because they can process more information simultaneously. On the other hand, they never get tired or get lost.


Now we know what autonomous cars are and how they work, but when will ordinary citizens be able to enjoy them? Well, the market for the companies that intend to launch the models has come a long way in recent years. Tesla is one of the brands that has taken a big step towards the concept of autonomous cars. With its function of the autopilot in the Tesla S, they have begun to get quite close. Still, the Mercedes Benz S-class may be the first autonomous vehicle that we will be able to buy, hangers-on, since it is capable of performing only almost all kinds of maneuvers, although from time to time, it asks to place your hands on the steering wheel to make him see that the driver is still there.


In any case, it is still unknown when the first autonomous cars will arrive officially as such. More than anything, because they have a difficult obstacle to overcome, the legislation, that is, there are no technological barriers but legal and regulatory policies because there are no laws that deal with everything that concerns these vehicles. However, countries such as England, Sweden have already begun to favor their arrival and their implementation in the market. So this is the first obstacle to watching movies, writing WhatsApp, and even working while behind the wheel, (hangers-on).





But since the near future is for autonomous cars, what would be the pros and cons of this technology? One day the children will ask their grandparents what it felt like to drive a car. If it was complicated or dangerous, because we all know, driving is dangerous. Every year, almost 1.5 millions of people die on the road globally, and more than 50 million are injured. More than 90% of these accidents are due to human error(1). To avoid this, many innovative companies are committed to reducing the human factor in driving to zero. How? with fully autonomous vehicles, capable of driving themselves, that make the optimal decision in every situation. Autonomous cars don't drink alcohol or get distracted by smartphones, and they can react to the unexpected much faster than any of us.


According to companies like Tesla or Google, autonomous cars will be available in the next five years, and that is today! Thanks to smart routes, we would eliminate traffic jams, save time and energy, and increase productivity due to all the time we save by not having to drive. A person uses their car only between 5 and 10% of the day(2); it is not efficient no. It makes sense that cars are parked on the street most of the time. With autonomous vehicles, there would be no need to own one. Since many would be sharing, we would pay for access. We would also avoid tens of thousands of deaths annually by reducing accidents by 90 percent in the US alone, and it would save 190,000 million dollars in healthcare costs each anus.


Everything looks good so far, right? The bad thing is the fine print. First, we would lose our privacy since autonomous cars follow planned routes through interconnected systems, our location and course information would be easily accessible. On the other hand, ethical questions of artificial intelligence would arise when programming these autonomous cars. Would you get on one that prioritizes sacrificing its only passenger to avoid colliding with several people? The biggest problem would be the massive destruction of unprecedented jobs, truckers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, messengers. Their jobs would become obsolete. Innovation and disruptions generate incredible advances and solutions that we must not stop, but secondary effects. How are the savings caused by these disruptions distributed? Will they define the future society or a model of a single winner or one in which everyone wins? Without a doubt the autonomous means of transport come to stay, and they are just around the corner. Until then, we can only wait to see what the future holds for us.





Resources:

  1. Corella, M., Heath, A., Karow, R., Jhana, Natalie, Stephanie, . . . Blackburn, J. (2020, July 31). 100+ car accident statistics for 2020 [Updated]. Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://safer-america.com/car-accident-statistics/

  2. Rosen, R. (2014, June 16). If cars really could drive themselves, how many would we need? Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/if-cars-really-could-drive-themselves-how-many-would-we-need/284549/

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