Have you ever seen a car without a driver? It sounds crazy, but these computer-driven driverless cars will soon be filling roads near you. Companies like Google and Tesla have been designing and testing these cars, and the technology is there – they just need to see if they’re value for money, work out insurance issues, and run final tests to check they can run alongside human-driven cars on the road.
So how do they work? The cars have sensors all around which can detect other cars and obstacles in the road. Sensors on the wheels also help when parking, so the car knows how far it is from the kerb or other parked cars. Road signs are read by cameras, and satellite navigation systems are used so the car knows how to get to your destination. All you have to do is type in the address! Finally, a central computer system takes in all the information it receives from the sensors and cameras and processes this to work out when to accelerate, brake and steer.
Sound like your idea of heaven? Sitting back, looking out of the windows and even watching a film or reading a book while ‘driving’ would be possible with this new technology. You wouldn’t have to worry about remembering directions to where you’re going. In addition, computers are generally more efficient drivers than humans, meaning emissions would be reduced. They would also drive more safely than people – they don’t get distracted by music or friends, they would obey the speed limit and they have quicker reaction times in case of an emergency.
However, there are many drawbacks of driverless cars. Computers would have difficulties making ethical decisions; if a child ran into the road, would the computer choose to hit the child or swerve and potentially kill the car’s passengers? Moreover, I personally find driving fun – I’d miss never being behind the wheel myself. There would also be many legal decisions to be made – should children, or drunk people, be allowed in a driverless car by themselves? Or would there need to be a responsible adult with a driving licence in the car at all times?
Although being driven around by a machine would perhaps mean that no one needs a driving licence, saving money for everyone, many people would be put out of a job by the dawn of driverless cars. Bus, taxi, train and tram drivers as well as driving instructors would be made redundant.
I’m not convinced I’d want a driverless car – but it’s only a matter of time before they’ll become more affordable and commonplace on our roads.
Would you like to own a driverless car?