Self-driving vehicles and vehicles with autonomous features are rapidly becoming key players in road safety. Everyone talks about how Google and Tesla use radar-like sensor technology and Autopilot software systems, allowing them to operate without human intervention.
There are many advantages of self-driving vehicles, including assisted parking screens and self-braking systems that are not affected by a driver´s sleepiness, anger, mood, or any other distracting factor. According to UN statistics, 1.5 million people die on the world’s roads, and 50 million are left injured or disabled. The advanced safety features found in self-driving cars can reduce the number of incidents caused by human error. It also brings environmental and economic benefits such as reducing emissions, congestion, and cost of infrastructure.
The five types of innovative self-driving vehicles are:
- Driver assistance: The car and the driver share control of the vehicle. Parking assistance screens, adaptive speed and distance cruise control are some examples of the innovative features that fall into this category.
- Partial automation: Automated features take most control of the driving, yet human intervention is required if the system fails. Driver must always keep hands on the wheel.
- Conditional automation: No driver intervention is needed. Drivers can sit back and relax, but are not allowed to sleep, in case intervention is needed.
- High automation: No driver intervention is needed, and sleeping is permitted.
- Full automation: What will soon be known as robotic taxis, a glimpse of a driverless future.
But technology is not always the answer. Self-driving vehicles are still in a premature stage and testing them on public roads continues to generate safety concerns. As they continue to evolve, self-driving cars are not able to mitigate all human errors. Even on a fully automated level, human intervention is necessary to activate self-driving features in specific areas with high traffic. There are also external social factors that even the most innovative vehicles cannot control: a pedestrian walking right in front of the vehicle or an unexpected obstacle that leaves no time for the vehicle to apply its automated features.
An automated system that will never fail is impossible. As we work towards a more automated future, there are many questions that still need to be answered regarding self-driving vehicles and road safety. How far can technology take us? What will be next?