Cars capable of driving themselves without any intervention on the part of any of the passengers have been developed and recently underwent an eight thousand mile test drive from Italy all the way to China. And though the vehicles still have many bugs to work out, it seems we may be soon seeing more vehicles that don’t require a driver to operate. Is this the future of transportation?
The driverless car is something we once could see only in films. But now as the technology is being showcased and experiments are being conducted with success across such enormous road trips, the robotic cars are proving to be more effective than once thought possible. The incredible vehicles and the technology serving as a driving force behind them (both literally and figuratively) are progressing far faster than once expected. In 2008 Honda announced that vehicles utilizing driverless technology would become technologically feasible in the year 2018. And yet with the successful experimental run of four vans this year it seems they may be coming out a bit sooner than we expected.
The vans used a guidance system known as the Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector, or GOLD as the passengers sat in the vehicles completely hands off except in a few circumstances where they needed to stop the car to pick up additional passengers, input new coordinates as unexpected road blocks appeared, and during intense road conditions the systems were not yet designed to handle. But aside from these handful of situations derived from a lack of infrastructure for the automated systems, the drivers made an 8,000 mile journey with no one putting their hands on a steering wheel and no one got even close to wrecking.
So will driving soon become a thing of the past? As the technology speeds along far faster than once anticipated, it seems this could be a very real possibility. But will we be safer if everyone on the road is using automated systems such as this? Yes, say the system’s developers. The GOLD system, even while set to drive conservatively and carefully would all but eliminate traffic jams, automobile accidents, and traffic problems. Even without breaking a single speed limit law city traffic would run at peak efficiency and effectively remove a number of potential drawbacks to driving. The systems may in fact one day become so advanced that cars would not even include steering wheels anymore.
But while these systems would no doubt work more efficiently, some are concerned that these systems would also take the power out of the hands of the vehicle operator. By making driving a computerized and automated system likely connected to a network, these vehicles could be disabled more easily. And there is also the possibility of a computerized glitch resulting in a malfunctioning guidance system. And while these are only a few of the things that still have yet to be worked out, hopes are high that one day driving could be a thing of the past in consumer vehicles.