There are a lot of misconceptions about driverless cars. There are many people out there who think that they are available to buy today but that is simply not the case. That vision of people about to have a nap in their car on the way to work is a long way off!

This image comes from speculative articles but also the likes of Elon Musk who will mention self-driving cars without giving a full picture of the current limitations. The only systems in place at the moment are those that assist the driver to control the car when required. So why the delay?

The challenges of AI

As you can imagine, it’s incredibly difficult for robotics to fully comprehend the world around them. This was found in 2018 when an autonomous Uber car killed a pedestrian who was jaywalking while pushing a bicycle. Along with pedestrians, the likes of potholes and poorly marked lanes can add to these challenges.

Due to this, we are likely to see an evolution in driving, rather than a road revolution. Volvo has developed technology where their cars can alert each other to any hazards, and these types of cloud connection will surely be needed for fully autonomous cars to become a reality.

The next steps

The tests for self-driving cars will continue and there could be certain scenarios where you’ll be able to let go of the wheel and let the car do its thing. Due to the amount of scrutiny, however, the technology will have to prove that it’s much safer than the way we drive today.

There are also other more complex challenges to overcome, such as litigation and ethics. Who would be at fault if there was an accident? The driver, car maker, the technology, local government? Who should a car decide to place at risk in the event of an accident if it saves another’s life? The young or the elderly? All these grey areas need to be worked out in the forthcoming stages.

So when will we finally be able to enjoy driverless cars?

Not needing to touch a steering wheel and relaxing absentmindedly in a car as you would do a train could be decades away. A lot of progress is needed and it’s fascinating to see how it develops. In the meantime, we will gradually see more automation in our cars and enjoy a safer driving experience.

Photo: Waymo self-driving car in Tempe by zombieite licensed under Creative Commons 4.0