"Omega Husky" is a freelance writer who writes articles in his spare time and works making automotive reviews, writing about unusual cars, playing videogames... Oh is he a dog behind the screen? probably... why you don`t scratch my ears and find out? ^_^
Whenever I look at the future & EV news It Is obvious that sometimes the word “Autonomous” it`s going to appear on the feed, As a short introduction of what the average people interpret as an autonomous vehicle is that such a vehicle is one that can read & obey the traffic signals, drive between the markings all on its own without crashing under tractor-trailers as they are distracted behind the wheel.
However I`m a stubborn young man and I won`t certainly budge to the “self-driving cars are safer” trend, my answer is certainly no and why? Well, there are a few logical factors to consider when it comes to autonomous cars and what it entails.
It wouldn`t solve traffic jams, Neither Pollution or noise problems.
When people talk about the Autonomous car as a lifesaver when it comes to expending time distracted behind the wheel I can`t help but consider it as a glorified lane-keeping assist. As fact Mercedes Benz invented a VERY rough version of it with a van and two more Mercedes sedans (which got to drive up to 175kph in the autobahn), there was also an even rougher version of it designed to accurately test road tire wear (which was also guided by rails in an oval track)
If it comes to safety I can`t deny a computer can react way faster than a human brain which controls flesh muscles that are handled via electric impulses coming out from our brain, driver error would be a thing out of the equation creating the basic idea of a safer driving in theory, But still there is A LOT of work to be done regarding it.
However what about traffic jams? Computers, in theory, would be able to figure out how not to block intersections or don`t crash into each other if there are no lane marks present. But one of the first steps towards saving the world and as well erasing traffic jams would be to reduce greatly the number of cars driving on the road on the big cities, Each car would then have more breathing room for more decisions and maneuvers, Whenever you look at public transport you can easily see why there are traffic jams, Nearly half of the seats on public busses are EMPTY and besides the half-empty bus you can see people texting and driving on a car driven by a SINGLE person, every car being driven by a single person… what does it create? Exactly… the “wonderful” traffic jams you`re used to, it also creates the pollution environmentalists love to bust our crown jewels with as well making the problem our daily headache.
The key to reducing pollution in the cities to improve air quality, dwindle noise levels and make traffic flow faster would begin for reducing the number of cars driving on the roads, the fewer cars on the roads would also mean the traffic jams would also be lighter and would easily dissolve each morning without much of a hassle. Each car with at least 2-3 occupants would have more breathing room and space to maneuver, even if autonomous driving promised to solve the traffic jam problems I certainly bet that even “Deep Blue” (The supercomputer that defeated chess champion Kasparov) would certainly struggle to find out how to make 10.000 + cars move efficiently while playing with 1.000+ variants for each car alongside their possible incidents that could happen on the road every day. Do you like the smell of toasted CPU in the morning?
The cars NEED to “Talk” to each other.
Today the most advanced “Autonomous” car needs several sensors, cameras, radar and a huge central computer with a set of pre-programmed movements for each circumstance on the road, they need cameras to “see” the road, they need GPS or rely on the road markings to guide themselves, and at each movement they have to check their "handbooks" on how to drive in order to determine the best approach for each situation on the road, and of course, on each maneuver like merging to the fast lane they have to figure out how to do so without cutting other drivers off relying on their calculations, sensors & radar, God forgive you if ONE of those things fails in the worst moment, they also pack a basic set of evasion maneuvers as dodging a clueless jaywalking pedestrian or braking to a full stop when they don`t know it`s possible to go around a stationary obstacle.
For example, an Autonomous car knows what is an obstacle like a box on the driveway, it also knows what is a pedestrian and how slow & vulnerable it is, but… does it know what is a non-autonomous car as it drives alongside it? In many occasions I can see the car just acts like it`s a moving obstacle that is near him, it doesn`t know how to react to unpredictable behavior and often resorts to basic dodging maneuvers or full stops on situations that can suddenly swing the other way around completely nullifying the first maneuver, in the other cases it just asks for the "answer" to the problem giving back control to a distracted driver very few seconds before a collision or a dangerous situation making the "autonomous" word too much of an overkill.
When it comes to it. For autonomous cars to work they NEED to “talk” to each other, inform of their current speed, their position within the lanes… and of course work in nearly full synchrony with each other. Full autonomy cannot work completely well if nearly ALL of the cars driving on the roads aren`t autonomous, the few autonomous cars on the roads will have to resort to predicting movements of the other non-autonomous cars around him calculating their speed and trajectory guided by his sensors and resort to basic maneuvers or in case of total doubt about what to do… give back control to a completely distracted driver that is watching how many Retweets he has on his Twitter account instead of watching the road as he should be.
The roads & Weather conditions don`t help either.
Would it be enough for our autonomous cars to communicate with each other and warn each other of accidents or any other problems on the road? if all cars were autonomous they would work pretty well on synchrony compared to the average driver on the road, however it`s not all wine & roses for the Autonomous car since we have to take in mind the billions of kilometers of road in the earth, not all of them are in top-notch condition with well-painted markings or pothole-free, many of them are also still made of dirt and without any help for autonomous cars to work properly..
The street signs aren`t also free of neglect, many of them are rusting away or their paint is already chipping, and despite the sign still being perfectly readable all it takes is a little graffiti over the street sign to confuse an autonomous car, making the car run into either going forward without hesitation or just give back control to get the "answer" on what to do regarding that sign.
Naturally we could expend A LOT of money to modernize all roads on the world equipping sensors, solar pannels... but we all know Politicians won`t care about our roads unless it`s election time and they have to look like they have done anything for you after all, money that could be spent on healthcare, infrastructure,defense, education... all of it will go down the drain just for a Scalextric car that a wealthy man or woman can afford to run smoothly on a road dominated by non-autonomous cars the average people can afford easily.
And last but not important, We can see autonomous cars can be easily be taken out by a moth over one of their 3 sensors for the car to panic and give control back to their driver, rain and snow also makes difficult for Autonomous cars to even guide themselves with all of the water, snow or ice over the cameras & sensors, the modernized roads wouldn`t be any different if we added also the factor of vandals wrecking it down for their enjoyment, weather wouldn`t help either...
If those circumstances are to happen an Autonomous car is certainly rendered useless against a conventional non-autonomous car, instead... why we don`t get HARSHER with the fines that involve distractions behind the wheel or slight mistakes to force people to pay attention? we certainly wouldn`t need to be driven if people used their brain and not their rear cheeks when it comes to driving.