A driverless car, also known as an autonomous vehicle (AV or auto), self-driving car, or robo-car, is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input. It combines a variety of sensors to perceive their surroundings, such as radar, lidar, sonar, GPS, odometry, and inertial measurement units, while advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.
Although Tesla sells self-driving automobiles, those vehicles don’t operate autonomously. Hence, human drivers are still required to supervise them or at least be in the driver’s seat.
… There’s nothing like a nap on the way to work, huh?
Video: A motorist on a Massachusetts highway captured a man asleep behind the wheel of his Tesla, presumably in autopilot mode. It’s an incident involving semi-autonomous cars that had police and federal safety experts sounding an alarm.
The driver’s action was irresponsible, dangerous, and illegal. However, there will come a day when fully self-driving automobiles will be the norm.
Can you imagine calling a cab from the airport and being picked up by a driverless car… Or being able to watch movies on long road trips while your vehicle operates itself? The technology exists but, like flight travel, may never be fully flawless.
So, what do Americans think about the idea of driverless vehicles in 2021?
According to a new national AAA survey, most of us want enhanced vehicle technology but aren’t comfortable with cars fully driving themselves yet.
■ Only 14% of drivers would trust riding in a vehicle that drives itself
■ 54% would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle
■ 32% are unsure about it
In fact, Americans don’t seem excited about autonomously-operated vehicles becoming the norm at all as only 22% believe manufacturers should make perfecting autonomous driving technology a priority.
Video: Waymo’s fully driverless vehicles are doing passenger trips in the suburbs outside Phoenix, Arizona. We got to experience it first hand, and our ride included a close brush with a construction site, a wrong turn, and a flock of pigeons. But more importantly, it got us thinking about what it means when Waymo says the future is driverless, and what we lose when we eliminate human driving.
“People are ready to embrace new vehicle technology, especially if they’re confident it will make driving safer,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman of AAA – The Auto Club Group, in a company statement.
“However, previous AAA research has found that some systems do not always work as expected. This unreliability can negatively influence a driver’s willingness to embrace new vehicle automation.”
Imagine the self-driving car you’re sleeping in has a sensor glitch and barrels into a parked vehicle at 70 mph? Like airplane crashes, driverless car accidents, even if infrequent, may have catastrophic repercussions.
No wonder we’re not ready yet.
Instead of being enamored by the idea of driverless cars, Americans are embracing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, and lane-keeping assistance. In fact, nearly all 2020 car models came with at least one ADAS.
Per the same AAA poll, 58% of Americans say they want an advanced driver system in their next automobile.
As manufacturers continue honing self-driving technology, one of their biggest challenges will be expanding real-world scenarios in which to test their vehicles. Sure, they may have perfected highway driving but there are almost an endless number of situations, such as navigating through a crowded parking lot, that would seemingly be more complex without the benefit of human instincts.
In the same vein, what if a little girl’s puppy ran in front of a self-driving car that was traveling too fast to stop on a dime?
Would a driverless car, like an attentive human, be able to instinctively swerve onto the shoulder lane (given there was one) to avoid hitting it?
Regardless of how much testing manufacturers engage in and any subsequent successes in trials, their biggest challenge will be getting people, especially over 40, comfortable enough to accept driverless vehicles once they’re considered safe by experts.
Please share your thoughts on self-driving cars, with or without a human operator.
Survey details and methodology
The survey was conducted on January 15-17, 2021, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone. A total of 1,010 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study overall is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.
The video below isn’t directly related to the article but contains relevant information about the topic.
Why Don’t We Have Self-Driving Cars Yet?
Nov 27, 2019
More companies are trying to bring self-driving cars to the masses than ever before, but a truly autonomous vehicle still doesn’t exist. It’s not clear if, or when, our driverless future will arrive. Where exactly are we with self-driving cars, and when can we expect them to be a part of our daily lives?