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DRIVERLESS CARS
WITHIN 2 YEARS?

By Hanna H.
There has been a lot of talk lately and a lot of general speculation in the media about driverless cars. The general feeling one is left with is that in a year or two, all new cars will be driverless-enabled. 

The vision is kind of like a Disneyland autopia, where there will be roving fleets of driverless cars roaming the highways and streets, available for your immediate need, 24X7, hailed by you using your Smartphone and arriving in mere minutes to take you to your desired destination. 

A lot less expensive to operate than taxis and trains, and a lot more convenient.  There is the added bonus of never having to search for a parking spot again. And there is the added safety factor of not having to get into a car with a stranger.

So, how attainable is this vision? 

THE REALITY

In actuality, we are decades away from true driverless cars.

It is true however, that several car manufacturers are rolling out amazing features in their newest cars right now.

STANDARD AMAZING NEW FEATURES:
These features include;
Forward Collision Warning With Automatic Braking: Automatic detection of how close you are to cars in front of you, and the car reacting automatically by slowing down and braking, before you are even aware that there is a potential problem.  

Adaptive Cruise Control:  With adaptive cruise control your car will speed up or slow down automatically to always maintain a “safe” distance between your car and the car in front of you.

Back Up Cameras: These provide full view of what is in back of you so you do not back into something behind you that ordinarily you would not see. Most cars now, whether they have backup cameras or not, have backup sensors that at the very minimum beep if you are coming too close to something behind you.

Blind-Spot Detection: If there is a car in your blind spot this alerts you with a light in your side mirror, or beeps if you turn on your turn signal.

Parallel Parking Assist: This will do the entire parking job for you, and guides into the right starting position to allow it to take over and park. The parallel parking assist automatically assesses the size of the space as well and lets you know if there is no way the car will go into it. Since most DMV Drivers tests do not require parallel parking proficiency now anyway, this is a great feature, since we are all faced with parallel parking from time to time,

Hands-Free Highway Driving: This will be available before the end of 2015 in Teslas. This is not too big of a stretch of the imagination, seeing as we already have cruise control. So I suppose once you are on the highway and going in one direction for a period of time, popping into a lane and letting the car drive itself is not too difficult to imagine- it can brake when things get too close, and speed up to keep up with the flow of traffic. GM plans to offer this same technology in the Cadillac this year as well.

So with all of these great features, the good news is that, as accident rates decrease due to fewer accidents and less severe accidents, our car insurance fees should go down. When pigs fly, you say. I am a little skeptical as well.  

ILLEGAL TO DRIVE YOUR OWN CAR?
Elon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO, talks of a future when it will be illegal to drive your own car because it will be so much more dangerous in comparison to a software-driven car. (Really? Does he know how often my computer gets “hung-up”, or tied up in knots, or whatever the term is – and becomes completely frozen and my only choice is to re-boot or turn it off and on again? Apparently this never has happened to him).  

I am doubtful though of this coming to pass in the next few years. Why? All joking about software glitches aside, you can make a car that handles 99.9% of the possible scenarios on the road, but what about the 0.1 percent of times when the car doesn’t know what to do. Even just plain old stopping and shutting down could potentially be the wrong reaction. And not everyone will buy a new car. Will the government force you to buy a new car to be safer? Hmm.. 

So, tell me your thoughts. And for Part 2 on Driverless Cars: Google Versus Mercedes - Click Here


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