No. 14

The Long Road To Success For Self-Driving Cars

Giving elderly and disabled people the opportunity to drive, reducing the number of traffic accidents and improving drivers’ working conditions – just some of the benefits of self-driving cars.

Car automation has boomed in recent years, with developments taking place in the areas of parking assistance, automatic speed adjustment and steering wheel assistance.

Google was the first company to release a self-driving car in June 2015, thanks to a programme that can detect cars, pedestrians, traffic lights and white lines, and that can map this environment.

After more than four million kilometres traveled and only a dozen human-caused incidents, in February 2016, the Google Car struck a bus, which this time was the fault of artificial intelligence.

Following this, the company decided to review the rights to a patent initially filed in 2014, a patent describing the software capable of detecting large vehicles, such as buses.

After private runway tests, in 2015, car manufacturers gained authorisation for the release of autonomous cars, provided that there was a driver on board.

So ultimately, the autonomy of the vehicle has not negated the need for a human being at the wheel, who can take corrective action when needed.

UBER chose the innovative city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to develop its driverless car project. Armed with cameras, radars and sensors, Pittsburgh’s autonomous cars have been transporting UBER customers since September.

Thanks to Boeing, this innovation is expanding to aircraft and the company will carry out their first flight tests in 2018.

Last May, the company managed to land one of their planes with a robot – without a pilot! This advance in technology means that pilotless planes are now a realistic prospect.

However, the common problem of these robotic means of transport is how to adapt driving (or piloting) to decision-making, for example in the event of a small meteorological change or a very minor change in the surrounding environment. What happens, for example, if a simple insect disturbs a sensor?

Also, there is the issue of who will bear the responsibility in the event of an accident. The driver, the manufacturer or the artificial intelligence creator? This question remains unresolved.

Moreover, if the risk of conventional accidents is reduced, can the robotisation of vehicles create new ones, such as computer piracy?

There are still many challenges ahead to perfect these new innovations, but self-driving vehicles look to be something we will all have to reckon with in the future, for better or worse.