Driverless cars – is this the future for road safety?

24th November 2016
Will driverless cars be the future

Driverless cars have gone from something we only see on sci-fi films into a potential reality for the near future, we’ve even given driverless cars a name ‘the Autonomous car’. In October 2016 we saw the first driverless car being tested in Milton Keynes! Whilst driverless cars are still likely to be years away from the norm, (with further testing ahead, it’s predicted the first driverless car will be for sale circa 2020) they are very much predicted to be the future of driving.

All modern cars have an incredibly complex computer system under the basic body. There are thousands of data points which traverse and travel throughout a car. Linked to these data points are various computers called electronic control units (ECUs). Each ECU has a job, such as controlling the engine or transmission, unlocking doors, windows, etc. These computers all have sensors and switches connected. The ECUs can detect variables such as temperature, pressure, acceleration, braking, etc along with many other components. There can be as many as 2000 signals going around a car at any given time! If this is the present i.e. 2016, what will the future hold?

What will be the benefits of driverless cars?

Less accidents?

Human error – the moment of lapsed concentration. It happens to us all (the reason why cars have bumpers and panels which can be easily replaced). Will the autonomous vehicle be capable to knowing its environment and keep passengers safer? Will the driverless car will be able to following speed limits and safe breaking distances better than humans? Driverless cars could run closer together allowing for less rush hour congestion. It’s stated that 25% of road congestion is caused by accidents.

Communicate whilst you commute

A driverless car would not need a driver concentrating and sitting at the wheel. Commuters could get some vital business achieved whilst travelling to and from work. Mums and Dads could read or play with their children whilst on the school run. We could all write the supermarket food list whilst travelling to the shops. Travelling to visit long distance family members would no longer become a chore as the party travelling could settling down to watch the latest film on the way.

Drink/drug driving would be a thing of the past

How great would it be to drive to a party, wedding reception, family meal or any type of party/celebration and be able to have a drink without having to worry about taxi’s or getting home safely. Drink/drug driving could be a thing of the past.

Shared driving/journeys

Would we share our driving? If your driverless car was popping to a supermarket to collect the weekly shop, would it stop en route and collect your neighbours shopping?

So are there any downsides?

Whilst driverless cars are a great idea there are also negatives. Computers can be hacked, what if a computer mainframe is down – would this mean all cars would cease working? Whilst driverless cars would solve problems, they could also create new ones. Who would service the computers within driverless cars, where mechanics are currently qualified in all workings of a car, would driverless cars require an additional new breed of digital mechanics? Would there be a need for garages/repair centres? What if one brand of driverless cars stopped working whilst another brand continued working?

There are so many unanswered questions that still need solutions, not least the moral questions e.g. if a child and an elderly person both rush out into the road and you could swerve to hit only one of them, how can a computer make such a choice?

Racing and Sports

Races such as Formula 1 will be far less entertaining to watch with self driving cars. Rally driving and endurances races such as Le Mans will always be a drivers sport. However would the concept of driverless cars introduce a new sport and racing circuit? Would driverless cars be able to compete in creating the same atmosphere?

Cost

Will we be able to afford a driverless car? A car already comes with lots of maintenance costs, would a driverless car create even more expense? Would driverless cars be a thing for only the rich and famous?

No one knows the future, this is only a concept but what a great concept and it will definitely be exciting to see how this unfolds!