The Self-Drive Car and Why It Could Spell Disaster

Self-driving vehicles have made their way from science fiction novels and films to real-life roads. The most popular self-drive or driverless vehicles in the world today are from tech giant Google, but many automakers have also begun the process of developing them and making them fit for the world’s busy roads. Imagine being able to read the newspaper or your favourite magazine, or sipping a cup of coffee or cocoa while you’re on your way to work, without having to do anything else in the car but programme in your destination. The car will do everything else, from backing out of your garage, to finding the quickest route, and parking in parallel.

Pros

Self-drive cars are covered with sensors and are capable of spotting lane markings and road edges. They are also equipped with cameras, ultrasonic detectors, accelerometers, and a host of other devices that technology has to offer. Google has claimed that self-driving cars will decrease the incidents of road traffic-related accidents by more than ninety percent, resulting in fewer injuries and deaths. The use of driverless cars will also save billions in accident-related expenses, and eventually auto insurance will be a thing of the past.

Cons

Are vehicles capable of driving themselves totally safe for its passengers? As with any developing technology, the road to creating the perfect self-drive car wasn’t without its share of bumps. One of the glaring issues observed in driverless cars is its very nature—being without a capable human driver. Google’s self-drive cars have no controls for humans, and the issue here is that what would happen if the vehicle malfunctions? If the automated vehicle needs assistance, how will its human passengers be able to operate it?

Another problem highlights the fact that the cars’ automated systems may have difficulty in understanding hand signals, such as when traffic enforcers are the one directing the traffic, and that the systems may not be able to detect lane markers when the roads are covered with snow. These are just a few of the issues; more are being observed as driverless vehicles gain more attention from motoring experts.

Self-drive cars in the UK

Driverless car research and testing have been given the go signal in the UK. The undertaking has been allotted a £10m fund by the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The project includes road law changes, which means that the Road Safety Act and the Highway Code will be modified to permit the testing of self-drive cars on public roads.

There will be two types of testing to be conducted: one for self-drive cars with qualified drivers who can take control over the vehicle, and one for fully autonomous cars without a driver. The testing period will last between 18 and 36 months from January 2015, and the tests will be conducted in three major cities in the UK.

Let’s hope that the results of the tests are favourable, especially in terms of vehicle reliability and road safety. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that self-drive cars have a long way to go in terms of safety. There is a need to address the issue of how to give human drivers control over the car in case of emergencies or system malfunction. Without these features in place, having self-drive cars on our roads may be a foolhardy thing to do, which can ultimately end in disaster.

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