The idea of a car that drives itself is not as impossible as it seems. Actually, the technology was invented in the 1980s, starting with anti-lock brakes and then stability control. Recently, cars have been fitted with pre-safe systems to reduce the severity of a crash if you come across an unexpected obstacle. As you brake, the car automatically reduces the engine’s power and gets the airbags ready for deployment if a crash cannot be prevented.
Car designers predict that, within three to five years, a highway pilot feature will be available for long distance driving–put the car in the correct lane and tell it where to go, and it will.
A year or two later, highway “plus-plus” will arrive, allowing a car to weave around slower cars along the way. Two to four years beyond that, look for traffic-jam assist capability, when the car will take over for you while inching through bumper-to-bumper traffic and alert you to take back control once traffic is clear. Car makers predict that the totally driverless version will happen in the 2020s.
Are Driverless Cars Safer
Google has had a fleet of driverless cars since 2009 that have driven over a half a million miles without a crash. Compare that to human drivers, who get in an accident about every half a million miles on average in the United States. Driver error causes 93 percent of crashes, according to one federal report, and there are more than 5 million crashes each year. Just getting intoxicated drivers from behind the wheel could reduce fatalities by 39 percent.
Can a Driverless Car Handle City Streets
Today a Carnegie Mellon University prototype driverless car could drive across country via interstate highway, with you there only to fill the gas tank along the way. In city traffic, it can determine how fast to drive based on the curvature of the road and other cars in front of it.
By the time they come into mass production, driverless cars will be better at negotiating urban streets. Merging in traffic, exiting and entering intersections, and gauging the precise distance to the next turn are things that need to be technologically worked out
Backup systems have to be integrated however, so that if one systems fails there is a seamless transition alerting drivers to prevent a collision. There are fears that drivers may be asleep at the wheel or too engrossed by distractions to refocus on the road if the car needs human assistance.