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Driverless cars? Not so fast! Why we'll still be driving ourselves in a hundred years

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Despite all our progress, it's going to take a lot to make the world driverless.

Driverless cars are the wave of the future everyone assumes we'll see within a few years, but sadly, driverless cars are a lot further off then we think. The number of technical and regulatory hurdles are so substantial that they may almost never be overcome.


By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
2/10/2016 (4 years ago)

Published in Business & Economics

Keywords: Driverless, cars, automation, attitudes, accidents, technology, AU

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Steven Hill, in the Observer penned a compelling article explaining the reasons why "Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Halt." The reasons are a litany of technical and regulatory hurdles.

For example, humans do quite well behind the wheel, and probably much better than any AI can at present. It's human judgment that enables us to drive efficiently. That judgment sometimes means breaking a traffic law, such as crossing a yellow line to go around a car that is double parked. Will manufacturers really design a vehicle that breaks the law? And will regulators approve a vehicle that breaks the law by design?

Another point he raises is, who will be liable for when things go wrong? Who carries the insurance? It's questions like these, amid the chaos of the real world, that makes driverless cars a dubious proposition. Will people even trust them? What happens during the transitional period when we have a mix of driverless and human-driven cars on the road?

His points are well made and they put self-driving cars well outside of the commonly believed realm of just a few years. In fact, driverless cars could take decades to come to market.

Nonetheless, there are solutions. For example, driverless cars might be driven in some circumstances, but run use autopilot in others. For example, airliners are now chiefly flown by autopilot systems, with the pilot controlling the plane during takeoff and landing. It's entirely conceivable to imagine cars running on an autopilot system while on a freeway.

The acceptance of such a system might not be so far off. Consumers already use cruise control on freeways, which is a partial form of autopilot already.

Innovators are already thinking about making trucks that operate in just this manner with drivers taking over as the trucks enter cities and towns.

There are other possibilities. For example a universal system that manages an entire city's flow of traffic in real time is possible. A very powerful computer would do everything including route your car. Alternatively, a system could work that enables every single car to talk to every other car in the vicinity. However, they would all have to speak the same digital language.

And there's also the potential that sophisticated hackers could disrupt the system. Such systems would need incredible security.

Self-driving cars would eliminate a lot of the stress of commuting, as well as be exponentially safer. Yet it is the human element that would provide the random factors that could confuse even a sophisticated AI. Natural events also make things complicated. What happens if there's debris or a small animal in the road or a ball, a child?

A hundred years ago, people still rode horses, at least in some places. And while a hundred years from now, self-driving cars may become common, it's also reasonable to think some of them will still be driven by humans. The future just isn't what it used to be.

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