Driverless cars. Are they safe? More importantly, will you be safe? Now this might just lead to some serious distracted driving. I mean don’t get freaked out if you look over and you see the car next to you driving itself in Nevada. This might be a bit of an exaggeration right now, but we are perhaps only a few years away from this concept becoming reality.
Earlier this week, the state’s Dept of Motor Vehicles issued Google the nation’s first license to test self-driving vehicles on public roads. Successful demonstrations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City, Nev., have led the charge in enacting legislation to permit autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads. Legislation to regulate self-driving cars went into effect on March 1, 2012 and was the first such law in the United States. The driverless vehicle law is also being considered in other states, including Google’s home state of California.
According to Nevada officials, the modified Toyota Prius, which demonstrated the self-driving technology, performed much like an auto-pilot to guide a car, with little to no human intervention. The thought here is that human error is the cause of the majority of vehicle accidents and that these new computerized cars have the ability to analyze a situation and determine the course of action, perhaps quicker and better than a human could.
Through the use of visual indicators, AI software, GPS tools, and a host of sensors mounted on the roof and in the grill of these self-driving cars, a buffer zone is created to detect pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles and help the car navigate around unnecessary obstacles, thus preventing an accident.
Despite their name, these driverless cars still require two people in the test vehicle at all times. One person must be in the cockpit or behind the wheel, while the other person must monitor the computer screen that demonstrates the car’s planned route while tracking all the roadway hazards and traffic lights. The self-driving car does allow for human intervention in case of an emergency. Thus, if there’s a problem the human driver still has the ability to override the autonomous auto with a tap on the brake or a hand on the steering wheel.
Other car manufacturers are also seeking self-driven car licenses in Nevada. But don’t get too excited just yet. Self-driving cars aren’t ready for prime time. I would suspect we are still a few years out, but we are beginning to see more and more of these types of cars being tested. The big question on everyone’s mind is just how safe are they? Well, if there is one thing for sure that we might all agree on, they are probably safer than the thousands of people who are texting while driving down our highways each and every day.
What will we connect next?