“Driving Me Crazy!”
Yes – I am a typical Gen X male – I love my Tech gadgets and cars!
However, when my car is gong to turn into another Tech Gadget that would start at the push of an I-phone smart app – the thought is driving me crazy!
Then again, I used to write my letters with a pen, get up to change TV channels, wind up numbers on the telephone and fix cassettes with a pencil, not so long ago.
Yes, an impersonal driving machine sitting inside a few lines of code in a chip in a car!
Not only do you not get to sit in the driver seat and curse at amateur drivers on the road, you don’t even have a courteous chauffer like Miss Daisy did!
The first obvious question that a driverless car needs to answer is about it’s current location, and also its relation to various other objects that surround it locally.
While the GPS helps in getting the driving directions and route planned for the journey, we also need the local “lay of the land”. This is provided by the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), which is an enhancement to the traditional GPS, by providing an accuracy of upto 10 cms!
So, how does this DGPS get its feed? The answer lies in the various gadgets like cameras, radars and lasers that continuously feed information into the DGPS. The camera is the eyes of the car, the radar the the spectacle allowing you to look ahead 100 meters and the laser’s that looks like a spinning siren light continuously scanning your surroundings.
All these pieces of complex and integrated information that the sensors capture are continuously processed into instructing the driverless car to accelerate, steer and hit the brake, amongst many other actions suited to the information provided regarding the car’s surrounding environment.
The second question that we all have is of course safety! Is it safe to let an autonomous and impersonal robot drive you around in a dynamic environment?
Firstly, lets see how we perform today – how good are humans as drivers? Around 1.25 million people die every year on road accidents and close to 90% of these are attributable to human errors – caused due to drunken driving, over speeding, and distracted driving. On the other hand, a self driving car typically makes decisions 10 times per second, based upon all the real time sensors we discussed earlier. Also extensive road tests by google – driving 140,000 miles and also driving across the various highways, with little or no incidents also suggest driverless cars to be a much safer option.
Great – so when can we get one?
The most ambitious plans are that of google, who plan to have their driverless car out in the market no later than 2018! Nissan, Ford and Toyota claim to be on the road by 2020, and the rest to follow in the next 2-4 years.
However, before we start planning to carry our bedroom slippers and newspapers into the car, let’s remember that the legislations around driverless cars also needs to be sorted and passed – before the vehicles can take to the road.
Most laws around driving are silent on whether a human being holds the wheel or not. The current law would require a human at the wheel, but the specifics of which activities need to be performed by the driver versus the vehicle is not clearly spelt out. Google used this loophole to test drive their cars with a driver at the seat!
However, a completely driverless car, would require a serious relook at various aspects such as who would be liable if a driverless car is involved in an accident?
On conclusion, the transformational journey from a driver to a driverless car has begun years back with assisted braking, parking, lane control system in most advanced cars of today. It’s a matter of time, where you can be a lot more productive in a traffic jam – converting your driverless car into a productive mobile office, and reaching your destination without feeling the current stress and strains on driving!
A Blog by Sourov Roy