Self-Driving Cars

Like it or not, in the very near future we'll be sharing the road with self-driving cars, and in some states they are already on the road.  I for one welcome this revolution.  The primary reason is safety, but there are other benefits as well.  Initially, most self driving car systems including systems designed by Tesla, GM, and Google (Waymo) all require a human driver to be available for 'standby' ready to take over driving if the automated systems detect an obstacle of situation that they can't negotiate, but in the not too distant future, you'll be able to sit back and relax as any other passenger.  As unsettling as it might sound for some people, self driving cars (as currently tested) are approximately 10 times safer than even the safest human drivers, and 40 times safer than new or inexperienced drivers, in terms of at-fault accidents.  Where automated vehicles really shine though is their amazing ability to drive defensively.  That is, their ability to detect and avoid accidents by virtue of their extensive sensor and processing systems.  Most vehicles use a combination of visible cameras, infrared cameras, laser and radar ranging systems, GPS/GLONASS receivers, electronic compasses, inertial sensors, and more.  This level of information, and the ability of the redundant computer systems to process this information thousands of times a second means that the computer has far better situational awareness than a human could, and it's ability to predict and react to other vehicles is superior as well.  Throw in eliminating drunk and distracted drivers and it's a no-brainer.

The writing is quite clearly on the wall.  Uber is planning a driverless taxi system; Freightliner has developed an automated semi-truck system; and there is more in the news every day.  The end result will be nothing short of revolutionary.  Tens of thousands of lives will be saved annually, and even more people who depend on driving vehicles for their profession will lose their jobs- replaced by safer and more efficient machines.  That is the way of the future and the way of technology.  Resistance is futile, just as it was for the Luddites and those who opposed the steam engine.  If we failed to embrace new technologies, we would be delivering letters on horseback, protecting ourselves with muskets, and traveling downriver on flatboats.  On the flip side, vehicle travel and commuting (for those who still do that...) will be far more efficient and enjoyable, freeing you up to do many other things.

The future is coming, and it's not science fiction.  We should all prepare for a new era in vehicular transportation before the decade is out.


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