A long road ahead for self-driv­ing cars

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

WASH­ING­TON DC — De­spite prom­ises that self-driv­ing cars are in the fast lane, it could be a long haul be­fore they merge with ev­ery­day lives.

In­dus­try track­ers and an­a­lysts cau­tion that tech­ni­cal chal­lenges along with le­gal and li­a­bil­ity is­sues will be speed bumps on the road to self-driv­ing cars be­com­ing com­mon out on the street.

Ma­jor car­mak­ers have promised to have self-driv­ing mod­els com­ing off assem­bly lines as early as the year 2020; even com­puter chip giant In­tel an­nounced plans for a fleet of self­driv­ing cars, break­ing the news af­ter clos­ing a $15 bil­lion (R193 bil­lion) deal to buy Is­raeli au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy firm Mo­bil­eye.

Waymo, a self-driv­ing car com­pany owned by Google­par­ent Al­pha­bet, is test­ing self­driv­ing cars with vol­un­teers in Ari­zona, and in Cal­i­for­nia alone, about 40 com­pa­nies have per­mits from the state to test cars with­out driv­ers on the roads. New York is open to sim­i­lar test­ing with an eye to­ward re­duc­ing ac­ci­dents.

Car mak­ers have al­ready put as­pects of the tech­nol­ogy to work with fea­tures such as self-park­ing, lane keep­ing and au­to­matic brak­ing to avoid col­li­sions.

Mean­while, Tesla boasts that all of its mod­els are equipped with sen­sors, cam­eras, and other tech­nol­ogy to en­able them to nav­i­gate routes with­out hu­man in­volve­ment, and car mak­ers have al­ready put as­pects of the tech­nol­ogy to work with fea­tures such as self-park­ing and au­to­matic brak­ing to avoid col­li­sions.

It is es­ti­mated that more than 90 per­cent of driv­ing ac­ci­dents re­sult from hu­man er­ror, and ad­vo­cates of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles ar­gue they will save lives and avert in­juries. Tesla founder Elon Musk has pub­licly con­tended that the foun­da­tion is laid for cars to nav­i­gate com­pletely on their own twice as safely as ve­hi­cles con­trolled by hu­man.

Chal­leng­ing re­al­i­ties

De­spite ad­vances in sen­sors, soft­ware and ma­chine smarts, some ar­gue for com­pa­nies and au­thor­i­ties to throt­tle back ex­pec­ta­tions.

Tech­nal­y­sis Re­search an­a­lyst Bob O’don­nell com­mented: “It’s time to face some chal­leng­ing re­al­i­ties when it comes to the world of au­ton­o­mous cars. For those pre­dict­ing rad­i­cal changes in how con­sumer-pur­chased cars and trucks are built, bought, and used over the next few years, it’s time to stop the cha­rade.”

He listed con­cerns in­clud­ing se­cu­rity, de­sign com­plex­ity, le­gal ex­pec­ta­tions, lack of in­fra­struc­ture for elec­tric cars, sug­gest­ing a long time­line un­til re­li­able self­driv­ing ve­hi­cles merge into the main­stream.

Elec­tric cars are seen as lead­ing the charge in self-driv­ing, and those mod­els are a scant por­tion of ve­hi­cle sales. Reg­u­la­tions in coun­tries around the world would have to catch up to, un­der­stand, and adapt to self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy, while in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, and prob­a­bly the courts, will need to work out who gets the blame when ac­ci­dents hap­pen.

Ac­cord­ing to US press re­ports, more than a dozen en­gi­neers and Tesla ex­ec­u­tives work­ing on au­ton­o­mous ca­pa­bil­i­ties in cars have in­ter­nally ex­pressed wor­ries about whether the tech­nol­ogy is safe enough to be out in the wild. Musk has held firm that the com­pany’s cars need only a green light from reg­u­la­tors to start driv­ing them­selves.

Vul­ner­a­bilty to hack­ing

Even if the tech­nol­ogy left to its own de­vices proved trust­wor­thy, some worry about the po­ten­tial for hack­ers to re­motely take con­trol of ve­hi­cles in scenes seem­ing fit for fu­tur­is­tic ac­tion films. In 2016 Tesla de­ployed a se­cu­rity patch for the Model S af­ter Chi­nese re­searchers claimed to have hacked into one through a wire­less con­nec­tion.

A Tesla model with au­topi­lot was in­volved in a fa­tal ac­ci­dent in the United States in 2016 and, while the tech­nol­ogy was cleared of cul­pa­bil­ity sev­eral opin­ion polls in­di­cate many peo­ple re­main re­luc­tant to take their hands from steer­ing wheels.

The ques­tion also arises of what kind of ethics will be pro­grammed into car-con­trol­ling soft­ware. For ex­am­ple, what should a self-driv­ing car do if forced to chose be­tween sav­ing its oc­cu­pant or a pedes­trian?

CAR mak­ers have al­ready put as­pects of the tech­nol­ogy to work with fea­tures such as self­park­ing, lane keep­ing and au­to­matic brak­ing to avoid col­li­sions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.