14 Oct Driverless Cars: The Answer To Our Driving Problems?
With the news that autonomous vehicles or “driverless cars” are going to be permitted for pilot testing on UK roads as early as January 2015, questions have arisen surrounding both the safety implications of driverless cars and what driverless technology will mean for those who rely upon their driving license to work.
A car is at the end of the day a machine, a computer is also a machine – there is no reason why the two cannot work together and indeed the vast majority of modern cars already have autonomous capabilities such as cruise control, self-parking and mechanisms which prevent drifting into other lanes.
These are mainly designed to assist long distance drivers with the more fatiguing and repetitive motions, to prevent unnecessary tiredness.
This is not to say that driverless technology should mean that we can sit back and relax as our car takes us on anything from a two mile to a 350 mile journey.
Are driverless cars the way forward?
Should this technology become widely available there must be mechanisms in place to allow the human driver to take over at any time, which means that they must know how to drive, because any computer has the capacity to be tampered with, re-programmed or (no pun intended) to crash. In the event of an accident, would it be the manufacturer at fault or the owner of the car? These legal wrangles are complex and will not be easily solved.
Driverless cars will have their place, but as a total replacement for driven cars we find ourselves in a potentially dangerous grey area.
The impact upon those who rely upon driving for their work would be immeasurable – while the technology is still new and in its early stages of life – there could come a time when, for example, long distance drivers would be obsolete because a machine could do it instead.
The potential issue of all these people being out of work would leave a gaping hole in the economy. How many taxi drivers, bus drivers and lorry drivers are there out there?
Many drivers will report having had a “near miss” on the way to or from work, or someone “just stepping out in front of them” as they were leaving the supermarket – assuming out of fairness to both parties that in 50% of cases the drivers attention is in some way distracted then that still leaves 50% of cases where even the most conscientious driver genuinely could not have done anything.
Can a machine really react faster than a human when driving a car?
Driverless cars could even take the skill out of driving, anyone could realistically buy a car without having the faintest idea of how to operate it or even what’s going on under the bonnet.
However, since there will always be room for the on-board computer to fail, by far the most sensible course of action would be to ensure that driving tests are carried out as they are now with an extra test for those who own a car with driverless capability.
A further issue then, is that if the car is doing all the driving for you, your attention will wander, so how will any driver be able to say for sure they can take the wheel the instant they see the need?
Driving is a valuable ability which not only adds to your potential in the workforce but is on its own a powerful and liberating skill to acquire.
Anyone who has just passed their driving test will relate feelings of total elation and total freedom. It would be a terrible thing for future generations never to experience this, after all, everybody remembers the moment their examiner tells them “congratulations, you passed”.