Major car manufacturers have built driverless vehicles and some cities are already in the process of testing the new technology for future public transport.
“When I look at the automobile, what I see is that software becomes an increasingly important part of the car of the future. You see that autonomous driving becomes much more important,” says Tim Cook, cheif executive of tech giant Apple, which has been rumoured to be building a self-driving car.
Singapore on October 12 began tests on fully autonomous vehicles for the tiny country’s public transport system. Countries like Germany and Australia and some US states have allowed testing of self-driving vehicles on public roads.
The Dubai government has also been in talks with some parties for a major development with regard to driverless vehicles, AMEinfo has learnt. There will be announcements about this by the end of November, sources said on the sidelines of World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2015, held in Abu Dhabi.
Swedish premium automobile manufacturer Volvo has become the latest car manufacturer to test a driverless vehicle on a public road.
The Volvo XC90 model will hold its trials on the Southern Expressway in Adelaide, Australia, on November 7.
Toyota’s modified Lexus GS was tested on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway in early October and the company hopes its driverless cars will hits roads by 2020.
While General Motors has already tested driverless cars at its research and development facility in Warren, Michigan, Nissan has promised to put an automated car on Japan’s roads as early as 2016.
Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler is planning to introduce the new technology in its commercial vehicles soon.
Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses, told AMEinfo that his company has plans to test self-driving trucks in Germany early next year.
Media reports are suggesting that Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Cruise and Tesla, as well as tech giant Apple, have fully autonomous cars in the pipeline.
Experts say the vehicles of the future will be like highly advanced computers on wheels. They add that the new technology could eliminate 90 per cent of all crashes on roads, because most accidents are currently caused by human error, whereas cars fitted with radar and camera technology are expected to never fail.
Human drivers could accelerate too much, get distracted or become careless, but fully autonomous cars will have the capability to overcome all these difficulties and will also be able to quickly react to other objects and vehicles on the road.
Andrey Berdichevskiy, Senior Community Manager, Automotive Industry at World Economic Forum, says that driverless cars could fulfill the promise for a future accident-free world. He states that more than 90 per cent of collisions can be avoided with the new technology.
Emission, space, fuel
Going forward, a majority of regular drivers can expect to get more free time because they will no longer be required in the driver’s seat. Moreover, the stress of staying constantly alert – to one’s own car, other vehicles on the roads, signals and other objects – will be highly reduced.
Driverless cars are also expected to reduce emissions and decrease fuel consumption.
Berdichevskiy tells AMEinfo that self-driving vehicles will be balanced with help of radars and cameras and will not accelerate unnecessarily as humans do. As a result, there will be a considerable reduction in oil use.
Singapore, with its limited land and workforce (where getting drivers for buses and trucks is a challenge), is hoping that autonomous vehicles will encourage its residents to use more shared vehicles and public transport, and avoid further congestion on its roads, according to news agency Reuters.
Humans still make mistakes
Just as with any new technology, driverless cars also face many questions from various corners.
Though most reports say the new cars will be programmed to avoid collisions, some experts ask what will happen if a driver-run car crashes into them deliberately or otherwise.
There are also concerns being raised on the ethical dilemma the new cars may face. Experts ask what such a vehicle might do if an animal such as a cat or a dog steps onto the roads in front of them: will the cars stop or swerve? And what if this will put its passengers in danger?
Interestingly, Daimler held an “Autonomous Driving, Law and Ethics” conference in September to discuss the issues pertaining to such ethical dilemmas.