On Driverless Cars

June 15, 2014 | By Rakhitha | Filed in: Tech.

It seems that world will get driverless cars little sooner than expected. And by the looks of the first Google prototypes it will be a revolution in design department too. Similar to moving from a QWERTY keyboard to touch phone. This has a potential of changing lot of things.

In long-term driving test will become a thing in the past. People who make a living by driving around people or goods may be in trouble. Also individual car ownership may also decline and instead car pooling communities will develop. For that course people will have to get through the urge to own a car to make a personal statement.

Since a computer controlled system is much safer and able take lot more inputs and react to incidents lot faster than humans they will be lot safer, it will also reduce of insurance costs as warned by Warren Buffett. As a result it may create market conditions that favors driver-less cars.

Also cars can be programmed to follow ideal driving patterns that cut emissions. In case of congested cities if majority of vehicles are driverless they may also be able to communicate with all other cars on the road and reduce or entirely avoid creating traffic jams.

Provided that driverless technology prove to be as safe as, and as good as expected in the long run, cities may pass laws that prevent manual driving in rush hours, highly congested areas of in places that accidents are common. But probably these laws will not come from US, but from some other countries at the beginning. Because considering how hard it is to control gun ownership in US, it will probably be impossible to control manual driving there. However I think that those who drive because they love to drive will eventually have to do it outside city limits or designated tracks.

When technologies develop, driverless cars will eventually move faster than an average driver can handle when traveling outside city limits. Also at high speeds a large group of driverless cars may exhibit swarm behavior, so that they move in high speeds in formation and still avoid collisions.

Also I remember a documentary (I think it was in Discovery channel or BBC) of an automatic car design, which allows cars that moves in same direction to connect together and form a train while in high-ways. This significantly cut fuel consumption due to better energy management as well as reduced wind resistance. Also the same documentary suggested that driver-less cars might have to block out the windscreen and play a movie or something on it while traveling at high speeds outside city limits. Just to avoid freaking out passengers.

Also with all those possibilities, all it take this technology to be pushed away by decades is one bad accident with lot of publicity. Therefore Googles approach of taking safety as the first priority and even limiting the top speed to 45kmph in first prototypes is the best way forward.

It is interesting to think whether driverless technology will work in Sri Lanka. IMO at-least the system will have to be programmed differently. Because in Sri Lanka, right of way is never given but always need to be taken. And a car that is hard wired to drive safely will not take that risk.


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