7 things you didn’t know about autonomous cars

In an HBO tv series “Silicon Valley”, a show focused around Richard Hendriks and his friends, their brilliant compression algorithm and their fight against the biggest technology corporations like Hooli, there is one interesting scene about driverless cars.
 

 
It begins almost ordinary: one of the main characters is supposed to be taken to his home by an autonomous vehicle. But unfortunately something goes wrong, the car changes its designated course and the character ends trapped in a container on an open sea for 4 days.

Even though it is just a comedy show, that scene shows clearly how some people perceive driverless cars and explains why they are so afraid of them. But honestly, there is nothing to be worried about! We present you a list of 7 things that you didn’t know about autonomous vehicles but you definitely should, as they may soon become part of our daily routine.

1. Not only Google or Tesla are currently working on autonomous cars – more than 50 companies are interested in this matter

There are MANY more companies, as the automated driving has become a very hot topic recently. Creating a truly autonomous car is very challenging and complex because there is an additional, yet the most important aspect that you need to consider – ensuring your car passengers safety. Take a look at the graphic showing companies involved in autonomous cars manufacturing:
 
Autonomous Cars Manufacturers
 
From the technology giants like Google and Panasonic, through automotive industry companies like BMW and Delphi, ending at mostly graphic cards and processors producers, like Intel and Nvidia – all those companies invest their money, believing that automated driving will become a huge success. And I guess so many successful companies can’t be so horribly wrong, right?

2. An autonomous car has already ridden across the America, covering 3,400 miles in 9 days

Delphi, one of the driverless cars industry leaders, sent one of their autonomous cars for a very long journey in 2015 – from San Francisco to New York. The trip was accomplished with “99 percent of the drive in fully automated mode,” Delphi says, using an Audi Q5 SUV modified with all types of cameras, radars, and laser scanners. The 1 % when a human had to intervene was when a car didn’t want to move to the left lane to give space to an emergency vehicle on the shoulder (which is punished by law) and while driving through a construction zone, where driver decided that it’s best to take over the control. Nevertheless driving a long distance like that not in a semi, but in a fully automated mode sounds very impressive!

Take a look at the video about this experiment:
 

3. There was only one fatal accident in the history of autonomous cars, and it wasn’t the car’s fault

In 2016 Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old man from Ohio, conducted an autonomous driving test on a Tesla Model S semi-autonomous vehicle. Unfortunately, he hit the side of a tractor-trailer, turning across his path on a divided highway in central Florida. He became the first person ever who died in a driverless car accident, which raised many concerns about automated cars safety among the society.

The Police were investigating the accident very closely to discover who was responsible for this tragedy: the driver or the vehicle? As it turned out, the car worked exactly as it’s supposed to and unfortunately, it was the driver who didn’t respond correctly. The car system warned the driver 7 seconds before the crash that he has to respond to avoid the collision. “This should have given the driver enough time to take ‘some action’,” said Bryan Thomas, Communications Director for NHTSA, though it’s not known “whether that was enough time to avoid or mitigate the crash.”

The accident isn’t proving that automated driving is wrong – more that it is not perfect yet. And it doesn’t devastate Tesla, as the latest numbers show that among Tesla cars on the road, those carrying its Autosteer technology, which can keep the car within clear lane markings, crashed 40 percent less frequently than those without it. Let’s agree – that’ s a lot!
 

Tesla Car
Tesla Model S

4. Apple is (probably) working on automated car as well

Rumors about Apple focusing on automated cars began in February 2015. Since then, the company has been very mysterious about it and didn’t wanna to say anything to confirm or disclaim those gossips. Finally, an Apple iCar photo has leaked and the company had to start answering everyone’s questions.

The Apple iCar project is codenamed ‘Titan’, according to The Wall Street Journal, which originally stated there were “several hundred” Apple employees working on the project. While reports originally claimed that Apple was working on a self-driving car, more recent reports suggest that Apple may have changed directions on the project and is now working on an autonomous driving platform. Whatever the end product will be, Apple is developing something car-related, whether it’s an autonomous driving system, an Apple Car or simply an in-car entertainment system – although the company will never admit what. Yet.

5. Elon Musk said, that people skeptical of autonomous cars are essentially “Killing People”

Elon Musk, Tesla owner, has recently shared with his very harsh opinion about the press and the people spreading a negative image about driverless cars among society.

He openly accused them, on standing on a way of safer and less accidental roads. And it’s hard not to agree with Musk when he says, that the main cause of the most of the road accidents is… the driver.

Truth be told, as drivers we sometimes get distracted. We talk through the phone, settle our kids down or sing with the co-passengers – all those little things can, unfortunately, lead to a fatal accident. 2015 saw the highest number of roadway deaths and injuries in 50 years, with 38,300 fatalities and 4.4 million injuries.

Musk reminded, that after the fatal Tesla car accident we mentioned before, automated cars has been completely destroyed by the press and the community. Which was pretty ironic, as this was the first fatality in 130 million autopilot-driven miles in the U.S., while there’s a fatality caused by a human driver every 94 million miles. But people don’t care about facts and remain prejudiced, which leads us to another point.

6. Most of the people don’t understand what an automated car exactly means

It may seem surprising but the studies show clearly, that the society is not ready yet for driverless cars.
 

Self Driving Cars
Survey on self-driving cars acceptance by Sustainable Worldwide Transportation

 
As you can see from the table, only 15,5 % of interviewees are interested in having a completely self-driving vehicle. Only slightly more than a half is interested in having any level of automation in their cars at all. It generally confirms, that people are afraid of losing control over their cars and passing it to the computers. They imagine scenes from movies, where a car takes complete control, and you end up trapped – just like in a Silicon Valley scene. But who knows – years before, people were afraid of a car itself and now driving one is nothing unusual. So it’s still possible, that people’s opinion may change completely through next years, as automated vehicles become more and more common.

7. Ty Burrell, “Modern Family” star recently took a ride in a driverless car

Burrell said, that after seeing those futuristic self-driving cars, he really wanted to try one out. Although he admitted that he is terrified of robots. Delphi took a challenge to show Ty that there is really nothing to be scared about.

In a National Geographic document called Years of Living Dangerously, the Modern Family star faces his fear of bots while test-riding a driverless car. Ty is not alone in the car – his companion is Matt, an engineer, who stays in the car for the safety reasons, but he is not allowed to talk at all.

Check the document sneak – peak below:
 

 
 

 
What exactly is an autonomous car?

An autonomous car is a vehicle that can guide itself without human conduction.

This kind of vehicle has become a concrete reality and may pave the way for future systems where computers take over the art of driving. An autonomous car is also known as a driverless car, robot car, self-driving car or autonomous vehicle. It is perceived as an ultimate version of a smart car – an automobile with advanced electronics.

Autonomous cars use various kinds of technologies. They can be built with GPS sensing knowledge to help with navigation. They may use sensors and other equipment to avoid collisions. They also have the ability to use a range of technology known as augmented reality, where a vehicle displays information to drivers in new and innovative ways.

 
 

 
Are you interested in mobile technologies? Check also 5 things you should know about Virtual Reality.

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