The prospect of driverless cars has captured the imaginations of science fiction writers and engineers alike. However as a result of recent technological advances what was once a dream is getting ever closer to becoming a reality. Our generation is characterised by technological advances and innovations. In the last twenty years the computer has been transformed beyond recognition, technologically powerful pocket devices such as smart phones and tablet devices are widely owned. Now the car looks set to undergo a technological makeover, placing the machine in the driving seat.
Peter Newman from Curtin University of Perth Australia, commented on the cultural transition of the last twenty years. “Whereas previous generations found both freedom and flexibility through the car. Generation Y however finds this freedom and flexibility by staying connected to their friends, family and workplaces through the carious information devices- like their laptops or iPhones. They can stay connected on a bus or a train. They can bring the office with them. They can bring their study with them. They can bring their friends with them. They can’t, however if they’re driving.”
The promoters of these self-driving cars claim these autonomous cars will also be far safer. Statistically 97% of all car accidents can be attributed to human error. These accidents occur due to a variety of reasons including distracted driving, aggressive behaviour and inexperience. Subsequently promoters of these new autonomous motors claim that placing machines in the driving seat will be beneficial whilst also dramatically reducing the number of car based fatalities which can be attributed to human error.
Essentially many are claiming that driverless cars will give drivers back the time which they would otherwise spend driving. The Google head honcho, Larry Page is a supporter of driverless cars. He claims they have the potential to “change our lives, give use more green space, mobility, fewer hours wasted… Statistically the average American spends 50 minutes commuting each day. Imagine if they suddenly got that time back.”
Despite the vast number of reasons in favour of having self-driving cars on our streets, a number of people have their reservations. Auto Alliance, a Washington trade group which represents 12 of the largest car manufacturers in the US, took a poll which revealed that 81% of those questioned were deeply concerned that these prospect of driverless cars could be hacked resulting in unknown danger and damage. Also even if statistically these cars may be safer many find the notion of machine driven cars to be unnerving.
The solution for the time being appears to be a slow integration of these new self-driving technologies into the car market. Due to this Google and other companies are introducing driverless features into modern cars and other road using vehicles. Some these features have already been integrated in a number of models and include parking assist, cruise control and automated breaking.