Top 5 Facts about Self Driving Cars
Written by William Regot
Top 5 Facts About Self-Driving Cars
With the Obama administration recently setting aside four billion dollars to develop self-driving cars in the next 10 years, it won’t be long before you can kick back and let your car do all the work for you. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. Today, we’re counting down the five most interesting facts about self-driving cars and the impact they will have on society. Okay, first of all, we need a better name for the concept than “self-driving” or “semiautonomous” cars. Robomobiles? Auto autos? Driverless carriages? We’ll try them out.
#5: New Cars Need New Rules
Around the world, countries are writing new laws to regulate self-driving cars. The UK says anyone operating a self-driving car has to be able to take over in case anything goes haywire. Similarly, among California’s proposed laws, the Department of Motor Vehicles has mandated that all self-driving cars must have steering wheels and a licensed driver behind the wheel, something Google has objected to because they don’t want their cars to have steering wheels or pedals. Japan wants to have a system in use for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but haven’t yet figured out the regulatory framework. Not only will governments have to adjust to this new technology, but so will insurance companies. Many analysts are predicting a “Napster Moment” in the insurance industry because they believe self-driving cars will lead not only to fewer accidents, but to fewer people owning cars and, therefore, fewer people having to purchase car insurance.
#4: Self-Driving Cars Call for New Virtual Maps
Just as media discs and game consoles become obsolete with the advent of new technologies, so too do virtual maps. It’ll take more than Google Street View for a self-driving car to navigate cities. They will need built-in high-definition, 3-D maps which recreate roads down to the centimeter. To map out an area, companies have sent out cars with LiDAR based cameras which project lasers collecting 700,000 points of data each second and capture everything from a 360 degrees perspective. These maps tell the self-driving car where all the landmarks are from traffic signs to street lamps. It’s up to the car’s sensors to identify all of the moving objects such as cyclists and other cars.
#3: Privacy Will Be an Issue
The very nature of self-driving cars means that they are constantly watching what is happening around them, and who is riding them. Advocacy groups such as Consumer Watchdog are concerned about what kind of information self-driving cars will collect on passengers riding in their car and share with other vehicles, including where they travel, where they live, and who they’re with. Responding to these concerns, a group of 12 car manufacturers signed a written pledge promising to be open about what information they would collect from customers and limit the amount of time they keep the information. But when California passed its self-driving car legislation, SB. 1298, Google successfully lobbied to take out all the proposed privacy protections. That’s right, Google’s whole autonomous car initiative might just be a way for it to collect even more personal information about us.
#2: Google’s Self-Driving Cars Are Safe, Maybe Too Safe
As any experienced driver will tell you, sometimes being aggressive or breaking the rules a little bit is exactly what a situation calls for. Google’s self-driving cars are designed to obey all traffic laws, but that doesn’t mean they always get it right. In Mountain View, California, one of the cars was pulled over for going 24 miles per hour in a minimum 35 miles per hour zone. There have been a couple of instances where the cars have overreacted to situations they didn’t prepare for. In one case, the car swerved erratically so as not to hit a car parked a little too far from the curb. Another time, a self-driving car moved quickly to the right anticipating a crash with a car in a different lane when all that car was doing was going slightly over the speed limit. Sharing the road with these model citizens will probably take humans a little getting used to.
#1: Self-Driving Cars Might Have to Make Ethical Decisions Involving Life and Death
At this current stage, self-driving car sensors are stymied by bad weather conditions and small objects such as tumbleweeds. But on the road, they will have to be equipped to make life and death snap decisions. For instance, is it better to sacrifice the passenger inside the car to avoid killing a family of five or kill the family of five to preserve the life of the passenger? Philosophers call this the Trolley Problem, a scenario where someone controlling the switch to a track has to decide whether to let the trolley hit five innocent people or move the track and intentionally kill one person. If the snap decision were left up to a human driver, he could act quickly without being burdened with the guilt of a conscious decision, but a driverless car would have to process how to optimize the situation. The question that automakers have to ask themselves is: Should self-driving cars be programmed to determine who gets to live and who dies?
So, what do you think? Will robomobiles do to Uber what Uber is doing to taxis? Or will this whole driverless carriage notion run out of steam? Oh! Maybe we could call them autonomobiles? …Or roadbots? For more autopiloted Top 10s and self-aware Top 5s published everyday, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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