Imagine a world where there were no car accidents, no injuries or deaths on our roads. Imagine a busy business district with minimal cars parked on the side of the road. Imagine a rush-hour commute where the traffic flowed smoothly with little hold-up. Sounds almost too good to be true? I think that this could be reality in years to come, we probably won’t be there in 10 years time, however we could be on our way there and hopefully there in about 20years time.
A fully automated, self driving car would be able to measure the conditions and drive to them better than any human would be able to. The reaction times where a car in front slowed or stopped would be less. And if the whole fleet were automated they would be able to work together to ensure that traffic flowed smoothly despite high traffic volumes. Your car could drive you to work and then you would be able to instruct it to drive home (and in the case of electric cars, charge itself) and await your call to come and pick you up from work at the end of the day.
Obviously technology needs to move on a bit from what we currently have to make this a reality. Laws need to be considered too. For example liability issues if there was to be an accident, drink driving laws – if you call your car to pick up you after a few drinks are you “in control” of the car and therefore able to be charged with drunk driving. Would there need to be a driving age anymore – if there was would it need to remain at 16 or would it be “safe” for younger teens to be in charge of a car.
There are a couple of prototypes of self driving cars out there – Google have done one (1) and so have Ars (2). Oatmeal’s bloggers have done a good review of the Google car after taking a ride and talking to their engineers (3).