When one thinks about what cars will look like in the future, George Jetson’s flying car might spring to mind. Or perhaps all those driverless cars that most futuristic movies show are what you come up with. If so, you might be interested to know that …
The Future is Now
Yes, you read that right, the most up to date innovations in cars include research and even production of driverless cars. Several companies in America have been hard at work on this, including Google, Apple and Honda. And while Apple is shifting their work towards retrofitting cars already in the marketplace with the software to become driverless, the other companies are still going strong.
There are two kinds being worked on; driverless cars that still have a person in the driver seat with a steering wheel and foot pedals for safety reasons, and then there are “autonomous” cars, the ones without anyone in the driver’s seat because there is no “driver’s seat.” In fact, autonomous cars don’t even have a steering wheel or foot pedals of any sort. Research into driverless cars has been going on for quite some time now but recent events have occurred that have enabled a giant step forward for the industry.
Already on the Road
As stated above, driverless cars have been in design and were being tested for years now, but only within the confines of designated testing areas and “closed” campuses. (They were ideal for shuttles on large parking lots of hospitals and businesses.) Plus they were the kinds of cars that did have a human in the driver’s seat. But just this year a bill was passed in California that will allow autonomous cars out onto public roadways. While this has been the norm for a while now in Europe, this is the first bill of its kind in America.
More than Just Shuttles
Uber, the company that reimagined how many people get from place to place, jumped into the game recently and as of August of this year, “Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones. . . “ At the time of the article there were only a few driver-less Ubers on the road, but the company expects to eventually have around one hundred of the Volvo XC90 SUVs in service. The modified cars will be outfitted with sensors, radar, GPS, cameras and a human in the driver’s seat for safety.
The Trucking Industry
Uber isn’t just making changes to the personal transportation industry. They are also working on driverless long-haul trucks. After a recent purchase of Otto, a startup company specializing in the driverless semis “Uber hopes to make inroads into the nation’s $700-billion-a-year trucking industry.” While it will still be a while before there are truly autonomous trucks on the road, (a driver and engineer ride in the few driverless trucks already on the highways) Uber believes that it won’t be long before this method of transporting goods cross country will be commonplace. Originally designed to increase safety, the retrofitted trucks are only “driverless” when on the open highways. Trained drivers are still needed for the other parts of the trip.
Driverless Cars are Safe
While people may think that driverless cars are dangerous modes of transportation, their track record is proving just the opposite. Not only is safety one of the motivating factors in creating driverless technology, but statistics show that “Human error plays a role in 94 percent. . .” of accidents that involve driverless cars. Most of the accidents were when a distracted human driver accidentally backed into a driverless car.
All in all, it will be a few years yet before there are a lot of autonomous cars on the road, but for now, if you want to see one in action, you can watch a video here or here. For the time being, those will have to be enough for most of us, but keep watching, at the rate things are going, it won’t be long before we will be using the cars of the future!
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