Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technologies have a lot to offer to the transport industry regarding enhancing road safety and providing economic, social and environmental benefits. Recent research have shown a tremendous increase in the automation of using functions by vehicle builders. This improvement comes hand-in-hand with the shift in responsibility from the human-manned vehicles to the self-driving cars. For the development to be of success, car and car manufacturers must equally step up their level of technology concerning specifications and security regulations. However, this invention is still in the development stage. Therefore, car builders must implement it both strategically and responsibly to motivate a new view at both the safety and reliability paradigms so that AVs can generate maximum benefits.
Firstly, the current sensor technology used by AVs, that is, the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), has not developed enough to handle adverse weather conditions such as when lane markers are not easily visible in snowy conditions. Therefore, additional investment and research need to be done on the technology. For example, roadways need to be reconditioned to ensure sensors can read road lanes and signs clearly. A report by the IHS Inc. indicated that drivers would need to incur part of the costs of additional technologies (Ni, 2014). According to the report, the cost of entry-level cars will rise by an additional $500 to $1500 while that of luxury cars will increase by $8,000 to $10,00. Also, because systems failures could be life-threatening to vehicle occupants and other road users, all critical components will need to meet high manufacturing, repair, installation, testing, and maintenance costs. The operation of autonomous vehicles may require special navigation and mapping service subscriptions. Other simpler technologies such as GPS systems, review cameras, and automatic transmissions add costs to retail car prices. Considering this, it is not clear what portion of occupants will consider the benefits of autonomous vehicles worth the additional costs.
In addition to substantial costs, numerous security threats are likely to arise once human mobility is dominated by autonomous vehicles. An enormous amount of data available for alternative usage is liable to present challenges concerning data privacy, security concerns, and data analytics and aggression (Silberg et al., 2012). Unauthorized parties such as hackers or even terrorists could seize data, alter records, compromise driver privacy by tracking the identity of residences, or individual vehicles. They could also instigate attacks on systems or use denial-of-service attacks to bring down the network service. Some of the remedies for solving these problems may include the application of data sanitization and suppression techniques. The methods are useful in aggregating data within the vehicle rather than having the vehicle transmit significant amounts of raw data. The manufacturers could also use tamper-proof hardware, user-defined privacy, real-time constraints, vehicle authentication, encryption, and in-depth defence to counter these challenges (Silberg et al., 2012). The arrival of fully automated self-driving vehicles will likely reduce the need for a professional taxi, limousine or truck driver causing many to remain jobless.
That said, the technology of driverless cars also comes with some benefits. Advocates predict that self-driving cars will provide important user convenience, fuel savings, congestion reduction in the parking lots, and pollution reduction benefits. They argue that because 90% of road accidents attribute to driver error, autonomous cars will reduce the accidents by 90% (Litman, 2014). The report indicated that with autonomous vehicles, the potential occurrence of crashes, including system failures, cyberterrorism, offsetting behaviour and rebound effects is likely to reduce. Occupants may decide to ignore using seatbelts if they are confident of their safety. Also, pedestrians and other road users may not worry about getting involved in car crashes, and vehicles may operate faster and closer together (Litman, 2014). Advocates further argue that autonomous vehicles may reduce the demand for public transit travel, thus stimulating a more spread development patterns which reduce transport alternatives and increase total vehicle transportation. Litman (2014) further states that, by making vehicle mobility more convenient, self-driving cars are likely to increase total vehicle travel unless demand strategies are implemented effectively. By increasing overall vehicle trips, autonomous vehicles will provide convenient car travel to non-drivers such as the old or visually impaired. This will, in turn, increase total vehicle trips by 11%. Also, traffic congestion and operating costs of vehicles are likely to reduce.
Also, consider the elderly, physically challenged, or the visually impaired being fully mobile. Once this group of people adopts fully-automated self-driving cars, the impact on the way they live and work will transform tremendously (McHugh, 2015). Also, professionals such as lawyers, teachers, and judges will enhance productivity by working on the way to work. Parents will also send their children to-and-from school without having to send a cab or nanny to pick them up (Maloney, 2017). Consider a surgeon assessing x-rays on the dashboard’s touch-screen while delivering pre-operation instructions on his way to the hospital. Imagine how many lives can be saved indirectly by this innovation. Apart from indirectly lives, this technology will profoundly save lives by making decisions on the roadways faster than humans are able. Human perception of cars as just simple means of mobility has changed over the years. People have begun to view cars as inventions for generating new values for energy management, connected vehicle, and self-driving. “Self-driving technology has a huge impact to bring about zero accidents and reduce congestion (Maloney, 2015),” these were the words of Fumihiko Ike, chairman of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Association. In theory, the various driver-assist measures installed in the system of autonomous vehicles would reduce accidents significantly. Bloomberg report indicates that destructed driving is the primary cause of 10% of fatal car crashes, though the number may be possibly higher than the findings of the report (Maloney, 2017).
Recent reports that self-driving vehicles have safely covered hundreds of miles with occupants have raised hopes that many people will soon adopt this technology and help solve some of the transportation problems. However, manufacturers and users have a good reason to be cautious when predicting the future role of these cars considering the looming uncertainty concerning the benefits of autonomous vehicles. Advocates claim that they will provide profound benefits that offset costs, but they will require the installation of additional equipment and technologies that will add cost to car retail prices. Still, many of the benefits are not yet proven as modern self-driving vehicles can only operate under limited conditions. Therefore, significant technical and economic barriers must be overcome before users can rely on them for daily travels. If manufacturers fail to implement vehicle inventions in time, self-driving cars will initially be unsafe and unreliable for road trips.
Silberg, Gary, et al. “Self-driving cars: The next revolution.” White paper, KPMG LLP & Center of Automotive Research (2012).
Ni, Richard, and Jason Leung. “Safety and Liability of Autonomous Vehicle Technologies.” Massachusetts Institute (2014).
McHugh, M. “Tesla’s cars now drive themselves, Kinda.” Retrieved June 21 (2015): 2016.