It would be an understatement to say that the next ten years will change the future of driving as we know it. Some predictions set 2050 as the year when driverless cars will become the primary means of transport, but the reality is that the future of driving is being re-invented everyday, with auto giants like Ford and Mercedes competing with newcomers like Tesla and nuTonomy to create disruptive technologies that will put autonomous vehicles on our roads – perhaps sooner than we think.
In spite of concerns about the safety of self-driving technology, it is likely that driverless cars will soon become commonplace in many of our cities. In fact, cities like Orlando, Pittsburgh and Singapore have already debuted self-driving technologies by allocating parts of their cities to autonomous vehicles. Elsewhere, cities within cities – like Seoul’s K-City and the University of Michigan’s Mcity – are quickly becoming the testing ground for AVs.
More than just a passing fad, the hype around driverless technology is substantiated. Driverless cars are expected to cut the rate of accidents by 90%, partially by eliminating drunk and distracted driving accidents; by optimizing driving, they will reduce emissions by 60%; they will result in more productive commuting time by freeing up an average of an hour per day for commuters; they will create overall less traffic on the roads; and they are expected to reduce the space allocated to parking by 15%.
In spite of the enthusiasm – not to mention investment – in driverless technology, many questions remain unanswered about how they will operate. Formulating a framework to regulate the ethics of autonomous vehicles, not to mention answering questions like who is at fault in case of an accident, whether autonomous vehicles should be programmed to always follow traffic laws, understanding how we need to prepare for autonomous technology and how AVs will interact with human drivers, and how driverless cars will impact our economy and affect jobs is key to paving the way for driverless technology.
This infograph from Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program looks at some of the benefits and challenges of autonomous driving technology, while posing key questions about the future of driving.