Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writer had written a short story named “Sally” in which he had first mentioned a robotic car which did not require a driver and was completely autonomous. It was way back in the 1950s when the car was a luxury item and common person used to dream having a car of his own and drive it.
Now there are millions of cars running on our roads and in same proportion cases of road accidents, excessive carbon emission, and heavy pollution has become a crude reality of our lives and to reduce such backdrops of an automobile vehicle scientists have been extensively researching on autonomous technology which will not require any human assistance to operate any vehicle and work perfectly in normal situations.
History of autonomous technology
Very first practical use of fully autonomous and self-sufficient vehicles started in the 1980s when Carnegie Mellon University’s NAVLAB and ALV lab introduced a car which was completely independent. Later, Mercedez-Benz and Bundeswehr University, Munich collaborated together for EUREKA Prometheus Project based on similar technology. Since then many major automobiles companies have started developing autonomous vehicles.
Possible benefits of autonomous vehicles :
1. One of the clear advantages of an autonomous vehicle is that it will reduce the no. of accidents on the road which costs vehicle damage and loss of human lives. As per studies every year in U.S. these vehicle collisions cause an excessive cost of up to $190 billion for vehicular damage and health-related costs and autonomous technology will save these costs.
2. The autonomous vehicle will allow disabled people, a person with a history of seizures and leprosy, intoxicated persons and older persons with health issues to a chance to use the vehicle without the need of any other person to drive the car.
3. It will reduce the labor cost of a human driver and travelers could enjoy the spare time in doing other works or relax.
4. Autonomous vehicles would be electronically based technology so fuel consumption would be minimal, pollution would be reduced and ultimately, the autonomous technology would be helpful for the betterment of weather.
5. Autonomous vehicles would be greatly beneficial for 24*7 public transport system. Generally, it becomes a hard job to find a public vehicle at night because a human driver could not be working all day and night. So using autonomous technology for public transport could be a boon for daily commuters.
6. Possible hurdles for autonomous vehicles
Every technology which offers great numbers of benefit also face some obstacles which question its applicability and usefulness. Autonomous technology also has many questions like how people react to autonomous vehicles, how possible insurance disputes would be solved when a human driver is not involved, how much time would it take to replace all current set of cars which are millions in numbers, how fuel industry will react with the advent of autonomous vehicles.
Some other possible hurdles are :
1. Autonomous vehicles would require a sophisticated software connected with vehicle control system. An extensive enterprise application development procedure would be needed to develop such software. So, if the software fails vehicle will stop and there would be no other way to start it.
2. If any hacker gets into the car’s system then he could navigate the car wherever he wants and the traveler could not do anything.
3. Current status of road infrastructure would have to be changed completely. It will take lots of effort and time and would cost a great burden to the government.
4. Insurance settlements would be much harder as there would be not human being involved in the collision so it will become quite a difficult task to properly handle such cases.
5. Autonomous cars would need an Artificial Intelligence program to communicate with other cars and any current A.I. program is not that much sophisticated which could manage in heavy traffic with too much input to handle.
6. There are many non-verbal signatures given by other road users like passing signature by hand, stopping signal given by traffic officers through hand gestures and whistles, movement of pedestrians etc. These non-verbal signatures are very important to understand by the driver. It will be a tough challenge for any autonomous vehicle to understand such signals.
7. Autonomous vehicles would be heavily dependent upon directive maps to move from one place to another, so these maps would have to be updated routinely to add the changes in the roads.
8. Autonomous cars would be a catastrophe for driving related jobs like personal drivers, professional drivers (cab drivers, truck drivers etc.) so it could face a strong resistance from such individuals or organizations.
9. As people don’t need to drive the vehicle and they could enjoy the ride, they would be motivated to purchase the vehicle more and it could increase the traffic congestion rather than decrease it.
Autonomous cars are still in research phase and there could be some years before we see actual autonomous cars cruising on the streets. There are various studies conducted in different countries which show that a substantial number of people are ready to adopt such kind of technology which reduce their burden to drive in a heavy traffic.