Self Driving Cars Are Already Here


Autonomous vehicles are those that, in theory, would drive themselves. When people think about these cars, they often imagine futuristic cars. However, the truth of the matter is, these vehicles already exist. Many states already have vehicles on the road that can drive themselves. Many more vehicles are equipped with data pinpointing technology and devices that allow for autonomous actions within the vehicle. As vehicles continue to integrate technology, we become increasingly closer to the car of the future.

Rooted in Fantasy

Science fiction has long conceptualized the automated car. People were thinking about it even before the big boom of vehicles. Because the concept has been in human consciousness for so long, it is amazing that it has taken so long for the creation of a completely autonomous vehicle. Norman Bel Geddes made the first self-driving car for an electric vehicle that was autonomous. Earlier versions of the concept included remote controls and wiring. Those models lacked complete automation. They still required some human intervention via a control box. Geddes’ model required radio waves that guided the car along with electromagnetic spikes built into the road itself.  Since the invention in 1939, the self-driving car has come a long way.

Driverless Cars in the Making

The Center for Technology at Brookings reported in 2006 that China, Europe, and America were all making headway towards autonomous vehicles. Modern developments drive vehicles closer and closer towards automation in entirely. Currently, many modern vehicles connect to devices or have abilities built in to place them on the technological grid.

Modern Movements for Autonomous Vehicles

Many governments and states have made their own leaps towards making driverless cars a reality. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is one such group that has taken into account the modern laws and regulations surrounding self-driving and autonomous vehicles. They state that in 2018, a total of 15 states put laws into place concerning driverless vehicles. This number has gradually increased since 2012. This shows that there is increasingly vital importance placed upon autonomous vehicles.

Some notable recent changes to laws and declarations for autonomous vehicles include:

  • California DOT passed regulations in 2018, and driverless cars will very soon be a reality in that state.
  • The Chinese government states that they want 10% of all vehicles sold to be autonomous by 2030 and are already setting dates to begin making way with beginning stage qualified vehicles.
  • Britan estimates driverless cars to be on their roads by 2021.

Commercial Considerations for Autonomous Vehicles

Governments are not the only ones getting involved in the driverless car movement. Private companies are positioning themselves as well. Google was one of the first to announce its vehicle, a completely computerized alternative to taxis. Their car is called Waymo and it is already on the roads in California. The Google app promotes the service as an easy way to get where you need to go, without a driver.  It promises to be a completely safe and efficient alternative to driving very soon, although no official date has been announced for future reveals or expansion. Other companies, such as UBER have also made their own pilot vehicles. The race is on for autonomy on the streets.

What Does Autonomous Mean?

There are vehicles to date that still require human judgment. Below is the level of autonomy chart, detailing the levels of computer control.

Level 0: No Automation

Level 1: Limited driver assistance with systems like steering, acceleration, or both. At this level, automation for brakes and steering cannot work at the same time.

Level 2:  At this level, the driver assists w\both acceleration\deceleration and steering functions together. *Note that an attentive driver is still required.

Level 3: Vehicle CAN drive itself (in certain situations).  It’s not quite autopilot, as it still requires a driver available to transition between areas where autonomous driving isn’t feasible.  There are cases where human judgment is still needed.

Level 4:  Here, you get a Self-Driving vehicle that requires minimal human assistance.

Level 5:  With level 5, you would have a completely automated vehicle.

The levels of autonomy have developed as new stages of automation for self-driving vehicles occur.  While currently there are no level 3 cars commercially complete, companies such as Nissan are revealing a level 3 luxury sedan by 2019 and the Traffic Jam Pilot claims to be able to drive without human intervention under certain conditions.

Concerns Abound

While there are plenty of concessions being made for autonomous cars, not everyone is welcoming the future concept. According to a study conducted by AAA (American Automobile Association), self-driving cars won’t be getting a warm welcome any time soon. The majority of those surveyed felt that self-driving vehicles were unsafe. Those same people shared the idea that they didn’t want autonomous vehicles driving their loved ones anywhere.

Additionally, as laws become firm in place for the inner workings for autonomous cars, there are still concerns by legislatures. For example, who will be responsible when the vehicle is in an automobile accident? Who regulates the speed and controls, if there is no human intervention? As driverless vehicles become more common and as issues arise, these questions will need addressing.

Love Them. Hate Them. Future Cars Are Already Here.

The fact is, the only autonomous cars on the road with level 5 autonomy rating are those under trial. We are in a testing ground stage. Self-driving cars are proving themselves.  Today, Waymo has driven over ten million miles so far with tests and road checks. UBER and other companies are jumping on the autonomous car bandwagon. Sooner than later, autonomous cars will be the norm.

Adapting Towards the Future

There is no doubt that autonomous cars will become normal as years progress. While governments and corporations make way for new inventions, people will likely adapt. This means that in time, driverless cars are likely to become the norm. As it is, for those that think that these kinds of cars are still far off in the future are likely to be surprised that these kinds of vehicles are already poised to be the next big thing. Vehicles equipped with mapping and accident intervention processes already exist. Test driving vehicles are already on the road. It is only a matter of time before autonomous is the norm for driving standards.