AUTONOMOUS CAR: HOW CLOSE TO THE FUTURE WE ARE
“The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.”
- Edward Teller
Humans have always toiled to become scientifically advanced enough to control the future. Currently, this endeavor is revolving around AUTONOMOUS CARS.
From the 1980s, with the introduction of computers, truly autonomous vehicles became a possibility. Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, the University of Parma, Oxford University and Google have all developed prototype vehicles since then. As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. In Europe, cities in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK are planning to operate transport systems for driverless cars, and Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain have allowed testing robotic cars in traffic.
Google recently has developed an algorithm that could potentially let self-driving cars learn to drive in the same way that humans do, through experience. Google will test this Artificial Intelligence, used in video games, for driving games before moving onto the road. Google’s self-driving cars have driven thousands of miles in California comparing its pre-installed map, built extensively, to what its sensors are seeing.[i] But building such maps for the entire country or the world is mountainously laborious needing regular updates. Thus the car should develop a higher level of intelligence so that it could simply scan roads in front of it, and teach itself how to drive anywhere without pre-loaded maps.
A plethora of benefits of autonomous cars, inter alia curbing traditional problems of human driven cars, include easily coordinated traffic at busy times, drastically reduced commuting times, better perception of environment by sensory technology than human senses causing lesser traffic accidents, duly managed speed limits for safer driving & shortened journey times, lesser stressful parking and difficult maneuvering, advantages for people having difficulties with driving, like the disabled, older citizens, and the very young, no need for drivers' licenses or driving tests, massive reduction in insurance premiums for car owners, efficient travel saving fuel and cutting costs, increased road capacities due to reduced need for safety gaps and reduction in car theft.
However, the formidable disadvantages encapsulate cars out of the price range of most ordinary people when generally introduced, reduction in jobs for drivers, even just a minor malfunction causing worse crashes than anything that human error might bring about, chances of dilemma for the police as to whose fault it is and whom to interact with in case of accidents or crimes, major privacy concerns due to reliance of the cars on the collection of location and user information, major security worry in case of hacking, certain problematic weather conditions hamstringing the laser sensors and cameras, challenges for robots in reading road signs, human behavior and hand signals, advantages for the terrorists for long range attacks, struggle to address ethical problems like choosing between safety of passerby and comfort of passengers.[ii]
Thus, it is clear that smart cars need a smarter level of intelligence to polish it advantages and diminish its drawbacks. Better protection from weather, more advanced signal sensor, highly encrypted personal details to avoid hacking, cars bearing special identity numbers paired with the owner to avoid mishandling, new legislation laid down to clarify the liabilities in case of mishaps, safety measures in case of system malfunctioning, creating employment before rendering the drivers jobless are few requisites that can be considered.
Lastly, it should always be kept in mind that machines are for the service of man, not vice versa. Artificial intelligence should always be supported by human intelligence so that they are USED NOT MISUSED.
[i] Timothy B. Lee, Waymo built a fake city in California to test self-driving cars, see https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/08/a-once-publicity-shy-waymo-opens-up-about-its-autonomous-cars/, last visited on 3/11/17.
[ii] Paul Goodman, Advantages and Disadvantages of Autonomous Cars, see https://axleaddict.com/safety/Advantages-and-Disadvantages-of-Driverless-Cars, last visited on 3/11/17.
Author: Suparna Mukherjee
College: University of Calcutta
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