In 2014, the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state of California started to issue permits to companies that allow them to test the driver assist technology in self-drive vehicles on public roads. Over the last six years that driver assist technology has been being honed and tested, only 11 accidents have occurred with the driverless autos, and none of the fender benders have been the fault of the self-drive vehicle.
Despite the exciting promise of these cars, the reality of the technology is falling short for many drivers. Here are a few reasons why the dream of a truly driverless vehicle isn’t working yet for most auto owners.
1. Communication Failure
The auto’s semi-autonomous driving system often fails to effectively communicate with the human occupant, which can be dangerous. The human does not know if the driving system has shut off without looking for an icon on the vehicle’s instrument panel. Any time the driverless vehicle comes to a stop for more than four seconds, the driving system deactivates. The human driver often does not realize, or forgets, the system has shut off. Despite the communication glitch, there is hope on the horizon as designers work to enhance the driving system’s communication to better communicate with the human occupant.
2. Map Advances Needed
The small areas of California where the driver assist technology is being tested have been extensively mapped. Before a driverless car can function on any road in the world, more extensive mapping will need to be done or the vehicle will be unable to foresee the road ahead.
3. Honed Sensors Needed
While extremely advanced, the driver assist technology still operates like a computer system and not on the gut instinct’s that a human possesses. It cannot differentiate between a harmless or dangerous situation. The system often slams on the brakes when immediate stopping is not required like to avoid a pothole. It is also incapable of making ethical decisions such as to swerve the car to miss school children or miss a dog. The sensors are incapable of picking the lives of the school children over the life of the dog, which is a choice a human driver can usually make in a split second.
4. Improved Software
As the average computer proves with frequent lock ups and freezing, not even the best software is perfect. Improvements on driver assist technology software still needs to be made to operate full-proof on a day to day basis. Such software advances take time and research, so even though they are not quit attainable today does not mean that in the future the problem will not be solved.
A Bright Future?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that 94 percent of all automobile crashes are caused from driver errors, so there is little doubt that despite some drawbacks in the driver assist technology it remains very promising. The day will surely arrive in the near future when a driver can kick back and let the car’s computer system safely do all the driving.
Photo Credits: Chun Kit To, davecito