Are Self-Driving Cars Safe? This is one of the most prominent questions that has been lingering in people’s mind since the introduction of Self-Driving Cars. It is only natural that people ask these questions since these cars do not have a human presence for controlling the car. The additional fact that these cars are governed by a fusion of a few hardware and software justifies the doubt that most people have regarding the safety of Self-Driving Cars.
The recent accidents that happened with the Self-Driving Car of Uber and Autopilot of Tesla resulted in two fatalities – the driver, in case of the Tesla and a pedestrian crossing the road in case of the Uber. Instances such as these further grips up on the doubt and lack of confidence that people have regarding the safety of Self-Driving Cars. However, should a handful count of incidents prove that Self-Driving Cars are unsafe? – Let us have a detailed look.
One of the main reasons that necessitate the need for Self-Driving Cars are the road accidents caused by Human Errors. Almost 95% of the accidents worldwide are caused by Human Errors. The list includes, but are not limited to Rule Breaking, Negligence, Lack of Safety Measures, Irresponsible Driving, Drunk Drive. The list of human causes leading to accidents could go on and on.
Driving is an activity that requires a lot of focus and attention. One has to be really alert and focused while driving on the road. However, since human minds are easily influenced by a lot of external factors, there are very much chances that they are not focused at all times. Imagine driving back from a really hectic day. Not just that the day was really hectic, you also had a couple of issues in the office – resulting in a really frustrated mindset. Driving with such a mindset can take your mind off the road, the result of which could be a fatal accident.
Driving with a disturbed mind is just one example where human error can cause accidents. The Sturdy determination of humans in breaking rules also contribute vastly to the no of accidents reported globally. Yet another reason could be a complete neglect of traffic rules or speed guidelines. Drinking and driving are one of the most common causes of accidents these days. Hence there a lot of physiological and physiological factors that can affect your driving.
This is one of the major advantages that Self-Driving Cars have over their human counterpart. Lack of human conscious helps them to take rational and well-informed decisions. They stick to rule at all times an are never biased by any particular interest.
Self-Driving Cars, such as the Google Waymo comes fitted with some of the most advanced and sophisticated Self-Driving Technologies in the market. Waymo uses High Resolution Cameras, LiDAR, RADAR and other Advanced GPS Techniques in a combined fashion to analyze and decide on its surroundings. It also comes with the ability to scan its surroundings within a span of 360 degrees with a range of being able to see at the length of up to three football fields. Hence the car sees, interprets and analyzes the surroundings with much more depth and precision as compared to what humans can achieve with the their limited line of sight range. Waymo also has the capability to predict (within a particular limit) the possible activities of what the subject might do next.
Tesla, for example, with its Surround Cameras (8 in number), Ultrasonic Sensors and Radar, compiles, analyses and interprets the received information from all these sources which is then applied in maneuvering the car at all times, whatever the terrain or the climate might be. Yet another features are the Lane Assist and Auto Parking Functionality.
Yet another factor that adds confidence to the Self-Driving Cars are that fact that they are constantly learning from each ride that they take. The algorithm or the technology deployed in these cars are never static, but are really dynamic so that they are continuously in the process of learning on the road. Similar to how a human babies learn and understand from their experiences as they grow, most of the Self-Driving Cars do as well. Waymo is one such example of a Self-Driving Car where it learns from each and every ride that it takes.
Waymo is already done with 10 million rides in real road tests and 6 billion rides in simulations. It would have learned a mammoth load of new cases on the road and how to deal with them than what it knew when it started its journey. Waymo has only been involved in minor crashes, most of which where caused by human errors rather than that of the car. According to a statement from Waymo’s Chief External, Officer Tekedra N. Mawakana, Safety is the topmost prioirity at Waymo. They are always working with the notion that things that may go wrong. This way it helps them develop better technology to foresee and address Safety Issues.
Also per Elon Musk’s statement in TED 2017, the driver is in the car only for the legal reasons. Meaning that Autopilot will be configured for pretty much everything. He also mentioned that it is possible to be super human by having just camera alone. Hence having just Cameras and GPS can pretty much navigate the car to a considerable extent.
A handful of Self-Driving Cars may not make much difference in the case of road safety, however, the presence of a considerable number of these Autonomous Cars can definitely make the road a safer place. Imagine the scenario where a major portion of the roads are occupied by cars that actually stick to traffic signals and rules, are never drunk and do not have minds that could be stuck elsewhere, a group of cars with their focus solely on driving and driving alone. This would definitely make the road a better place to drive and be driven.
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