autonomous car (also known as a driverless car, auto, self-driving car, robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Many such vehicles are being developed, but as of May 2017 automated cars permitted on public roads are not yet fully autonomous. They all require a human driver at the wheel who is ready at a moment’s notice to take control of the vehicle.
Autonomous cars use a variety of techniques to detect their surroundings, such as radar, laser light, GPS, odometry, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Autonomous cars have control systems that are capable of analyzing sensory data to distinguish between different cars on the road, which is very useful in planning a path to the desired destination.
The new rules are a game-changer for the nascent industry, opening the doors to a host of complex questions about legality, ethics and safety. The regulations, which could go into effect this year, pave the road for a deployment that could revolutionize modern society.
“This is like the smartphone transition times 10 as far as the potential to change our existence on the planet,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, an automotive research company. “There’s a sense of almost panic and certainly a frantic pace that all these industries are going through to try to position themselves in this new world.”
The race to dominate the market is rapidly accelerating in California, where major technology corporations, traditional automakers and artificial intelligence startups are engaged in aggressive competition. In an industry that could be worth $26bn by 2025, with potentially millions of vehicles on the road in just a few years, there’s a lot at stake.
‘It will be life-changing’
California recently overtook the UK to become the fifth largest economy in the world, and there are a total of 27 companies that now have permits to test autonomous cars on the road, though current rules require a human behind the wheel. With a total of 180 vehicles approved for operation, there are already six times as many vehicles permitted on public streets here compared with 2014 – and probably more than the rest of the US combined.
“The technology itself will perform a lot better than we perform now as humans,” said Bernard Soriano, deputy director of the Department of Motor Vehicles. “We needed to provide a clear path to completely driverless vehicles, because of the safety benefits.
Testing without drivers is also critical because studies have shown that in partial automation, where a human is still behind the wheel, it can be difficult for a driver to stay engaged. When the human driver is expected to take over at any time … we know that’s a real unsafe situation, said Corinne Kisner, director of policy and special projects at the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Waydo said the deployment of fully autonomous cars is personal for her. ” My mom’s getting older and having those hard conversations about you’re not able to safely drive any more. We need to take your keys away. A technology like this can really give a lot of people mobility for a very long time.