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How Close Are We to Self-Driven Cars?

How Close Are We to Self-Driven Cars?

The thought of developing a driver-less mobile vehicle to transport riders around is far from new. While it may seem like a straightforward idea with a potentially conceivable blueprint, not until recently have working prototypes been developed and assessed for error. Although this is a huge step in the right direction, it does not mean these autonomous vehicles will be commercially available in the immediate future.

Driving Forces

In an attempt to expedite self-driven mobile technology, a partnership between Fiat Chrysler and Google’s self-driving car project has been in discussion for quite some time. This partnership would be the first to match an automaker with Google’s 7-year-old independent car venture which is a project of X lab at Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

To further accelerate the pace of development and acceptance of self-driving car technology by society, lawmakers and regulators, in late April 2016 a coalition was established through an additional partnership between Alphabet, Ford, Lyft, Volvo and Uber. Combining the efforts of the self-driving vehicle division of Google, car makers and the ride-sharing services, this coalition, named as the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, hopes to urge the federal government to change a few state driving legislations that could possibly delay the adoption of this independent vehicle technology.

“We want to partner to bring self-driving to all the vehicles in the world,” Google cofounder and Alphabet president, Sergey Brin, told media at a self-driving car event in spring 2015.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Google has been testing versions of self-driving cars on highways dating back to 2009 and on city streets since 2014. Additionally, it owns and operates a fleet of Lexus SUVs specially outfitted with autonomous software as well as a pod-like prototype vehicle it designed.

To further identify and assess the progress being made by contributing companies and organizations, also in April 2016 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hosted the second of two public forums discussing the future of the self-driving car at Stanford University. Through this meet-up, researchers hoped to attain input with regard to the “safe deployment of automated safety technology.” Expecting to determine how self-driving cars will bridge themselves into the mainstream automotive industry, many elements discussed ranged from design to safety.

Increased Safety

There are many proposed benefits to utilizing self-driven automotive technology. One of the primary benefits rests in the hope that software control would limit and reduce the possibility for human error and, in turn, vehicular injuries and death.

As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, with higher trending rates estimated for 2015. The U.S. Department of Transportation has thus forecasted that the emergence of self-driving vehicles will be helpful in a considerable decrease in both the number and severity of vehicle crashes.

However, while these self-driven cars are proved demonstrably safer than human-piloted versions, it really comes down to whether or not society trusts the developed software. Similar to computers, autonomous vehicles are ultimately only as safe as the software that controls them—systems that also possess the possibility for error or glitches.

Even without a 100 percent safety guarantee, software-controlled driving systems would eliminate many causes of human error such as sleep deprivation, distractions and emotional distress. It would also be able to more closely regulate travel speeds, further reducing accidents, eliminate the risk of citations and allowing police officers to refocus their efforts more-so on crime than on traffic violations.

Projecting this new technology forward, Google aims at having self-driving cars in the public’s hands by 2020