By Joshua Salita
Tech & Innovation Writer
For decades, movies have depicted the future as being full of flying cars, but it is now almost 2016, and we have still yet to invent an automatic self-driving car.
There have been reports of many manufacturers having self-driving cars “in the works,” we are not even close to having a working, driverless car.
While the technology for computers to drive themselves is still in the testing phases, it is important to note the potential for a change in automobile economics because the interest in a driverless car lies in the ease and convenience,.
As the Detroit Free Press reported, “It may be the driverless car that will have the most pronounced impact on the way we live.” They go on to describe how a driverless car will have the capability to reduce the need for multiple cars in a household. After dropping of one spouse at work, the car could drive home, grab the kids and drop them off at school. After finishing that task, the car could drive itself back home to take the other spouse to their meeting, all while the passengers in the car are finishing work e-mails, or scribbling last minute homework.
Also, this provides options for lower-income people to be able to afford car ownership. They will be able to split the cost of the car with a few neighbors, since all of them will be able to use the car throughout the day.
This economic model is similar to Uber’s plan, which as TechCrunch explains, “is to remove 1 million [drivers] from New York City with UberPOOL alone.” This has the potential to reduce the number of deaths caused by automobile accidents which is 1.2 million deaths per year.
However, as the number of cars on the road are projected to fall, the state revenue associated with cars will also decrease. Detroit Free Press raises an interesting comment, “The ultimate conundrum is how to build and maintain the additional roads needed for a smaller pool of cars that brings in less money in gas taxes and registration fees.”
The transition to driverless cars has already started; Google has been testing driverless cars in California for a few years. However, the first step towards driverless cars has already been piloted and released by Tesla.
Instead of attempting to automate the entire process, Tesla has simply combined a large variety of features that are currently available on high-end models of automobiles. Lane detection, adaptive cruise control, and automatic signaling have been combined into one seamless interface that allows a driver to input the destination and the car will do all of the driving, except for turns. When a turn is coming up, a notification will appear on the dashboard display to alert the driver that their input is needed.
However, there is still a huge roadblock standing in the way of nationwide adoption of this revolutionary technology. While some people refuse to consider autonomous cars because they love driving, a majority of others are hesitant to relinquish control. Since the computing unit will be controlling all of the driving aspects of the car, one simple miscalculation or a processing error can be fatal. While people are more than willing to give up banal tasks, they are much less willing to give up something that makes them feel empowered. Just like everything else, the success of self-driving cars will depend on the ability of the consumer to relinquish their control – something we all have difficulty doing.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 17th print edition.
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