Autonomous vehicles are closer than you may think. In some places, autonomous vehicles are now running on specific taxi routes. Once a few kinks in the tech have been worked out, autonomous vehicles will likely start to roll out into many major towns and cities. It may not be long until all modern vehicles have some sort of automation tech in them, even if they are not 100% automated.
There are a few wrinkles in autonomous vehicles, but nothing that can’t be ironed out. Many companies are going all-in on an automated vehicle future. This includes RED Shield Administration, a vehicle protection plan company.
In this article, we want to highlight the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles, as well as show the challenges. This is the future of autonomous vehicles.
The Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles
Let’s start with the benefits of autonomous vehicles. You may have heard of a few of these before. This is because many companies, including Tesla, are starting to get into the business of autonomous vehicles. Some are on the road right now. These companies are regularly touting the idea that autonomous vehicles are the future. This means heavy discussion of positives.
It is estimated that 94% of serious car accidents are due to human error. The hope is that when autonomous vehicles are 100% automated (i.e., taking full control from the driver), then the risk of getting into a vehicle accident will drastically reduce. This could save lives. It could prevent injuries. It can save people money.
Insurance policy costs will likely follow suit if car accidents go down. After all, insurance costs are based on risk. While it hasn’t happened yet, it’s likely insurance companies will eventually offer a policy specifically for autonomous vehicles, and these will be highly affordable.
Older people and those with certain disabilities can struggle to drive. They either head out onto public transport (not always convenient) or stay home (nobody wants to do that). They could drive, but it is incredibly risky.
Autonomous vehicles can eventually provide these limited mobility groups with more mobility. In the future, those who cannot normally drive could hop into their vehicle, tell it where to go, and get to exactly where they need to be. It is a minimal hassle. These people no longer need to confine themselves to public transport, which doesn’t always get to where they need to go.
Even further in the future, these vehicles could be programmed to run better taxi services, carry out deliveries, etc. This could reduce costs as there are less staff to pay. It may also be argued that it is unfair that jobs should be lost. However, this has happened throughout history. It isn’t anything new. As tech improves, jobs disappear, but new ones appear.
Lower Fuel Consumption
All autonomous vehicles will likely be electric since that is how the car industry is trending. This means that they won’t be consuming fuel as such. However, there will be ‘savings’ in terms of energy costs.
Autonomous vehicles will likely be programmed to drive most efficiently. This means that vehicles can travel further on a single battery charge. Not only does this make the vehicle cheaper to operate, but makes the autonomous vehicle more convenient too.
One study suggested that when fully autonomous vehicles are being used by most people, congestion could improve by as much as 35%. This is a huge amount, particularly for big cities where gridlock is an almost daily occurrence.
Autonomous vehicles can make ridesharing easier. This was one of the main goals of Uber when it first formed. If ridesharing becomes easier, we may see fewer vehicles on the roads.
Electric vehicles mean less of an impact on the environment. This is more important than ever, especially since we are in the midst of a climate crisis.
The Challenges of Autonomous Vehicles
Unfortunately, while there are a lot of benefits to autonomous vehicles, there are some challenges that still need to be overcome. In fact, it is these challenges that are currently preventing autonomous vehicles from becoming so widespread. Some of these issues will eventually be solved, but it is still being determined when. Vehicle automation is currently well behind where many people believed it would be in 2023.
The biggest challenge so far is related to how the vehicles will react in certain driving conditions.
For example, autonomous vehicles use various systems to detect other vehicles and obstacles around them. This tech isn’t fantastic. Now, the detection systems can interfere with other autonomous vehicles. In some autonomous vehicles, there have been cases of ‘false alerts’ which can cause vehicles to act in unexpected ways.
Autonomous vehicles need to consider different driving laws around the world. In fact, you may find different driving laws depending on where you are in a city. For example, speed limits may differ. Because of this, vehicles can’t be given one set of driving instructions. They need thousands (constantly updated), and the vehicle must know which system to use and when.
Vehicles need to get a lot better with handling weather too. Now, autonomous vehicles rely on reading the markings on the road to know what to do. Now, if those markings get covered up or damaged in any way, the vehicle can’t handle the situation easily. There have been cases where autonomous vehicles have struggled in the rain and ice.
Moreover, these autonomous vehicles will be sharing the roads with unpredictable non-autonomous vehicles for a good few decades. Unless non-autonomous vehicles are banned, they will likely be around forever. Autonomous vehicles need to deal with the challenge of that.
AI Driving vs. Emotional Driving
When people drive, they drive with emotion. You may not realize it, but when you are driving your vehicle, you constantly watch for other drivers, pedestrians, etc. You are trying to predict the behavior of others and react to it.
Take pedestrians, for example. You may be driving along the road and see a pedestrian on the sidewalk. They aren’t doing much then. They don’t see you, though. They decide they now want to cross the road. If you spot them, you can brake the vehicle, potentially saving a life quickly.
At the moment, autonomous vehicles can’t do this. They make decisions based on fixed rules. They don’t drive with ‘emotion.’ They struggle to change their driving behavior based on how other road users and pedestrians are acting. This could potentially lead to more accidents.
It is unclear whether this is an issue that can ever be solved. We cannot make an AI that is sentient and capable of making decisions for itself. Somewhere along the line, a person has programmed the computer’s processes.
If a computer doesn’t know it can deviate from those rules, it won’t. Computers are only as smart as the humans that built them. Remember, autonomous vehicles don’t have the same sensors as humans. They can’t really ‘see.’ They can’t hear. This means that their decision-making capability is automatically worse.
However, those emotional human decisions can also be a bad thing. We pointed it out earlier, but in most cases, autonomous vehicles can reduce accidents. There are just a few fringe cases where they perform worse.
This will probably be a major point of contention over the few years. Insurance companies need to know who is responsible for an accident.
With non-automated vehicles, it is easy. The driver of the vehicle at fault is to blame. But when fully automated vehicles roll around, will that still be the case? Can the vehicle’s driver be at fault if they aren’t actually driving the vehicle? Surely, it would be the vehicle manufacturer since they programmed it?
We genuinely don’t know the way this is going to go. Expect lots of lawsuits once fully autonomous vehicles become a real thing.
Autonomous vehicles aren’t going to be immune from breakdowns. In fact, breakdowns are likely to be a lot worse. This is because there are a lot of complicated components inside an autonomous vehicle.
This is why companies like RED Shield Administration offer vehicle protection plans. With so many moving parts, repair costs for any vehicle can be incredibly steep. The vehicle protection plans that RED Shield offers can help defend customers against those costs and get them back on the road.
The Future of Vehicle Autonomy
Autonomous vehicles are going to happen. It is only a matter of time. There are a lot of benefits to autonomous vehicles and while many people are a bit wary of the technology, we are sure that as it improves, more people will open their eyes to the benefits of self-driving vehicles.
Of course, there are still challenges that need to be overcome. Current autonomous vehicles still don’t perform as well as they can, and there is a matter of deciding who is responsible for vehicle accidents. However, we are sure that eventually, many of these issues will be ironed out, and we can look forward to safer and less congested roads.