Self-Driving Cars: Urban Myth or Future Reality?

Consumers have certainly heard a lot of hype over the past 10 years about self-driving cars. However, companies like Ford now say the arrival of autonomous vehicles was overestimated by the industry, and experts are still trying to figure out how to fine-tune the technology. 

Self-Driving Taxi Test Programs

General Motors says it plans to start a taxi service by the end of the year with vehicles from its Cruise division. These cars are unique because they don’t have a steering wheel or pedals. Waymo is Google’s project for self-driving cars, which has a self-driving taxi service being tested in Phoenix. 

The Waymo project lost steam after a self-driving car from Uber struck and killed a woman that was walking a bicycle across the road in Tempe, Arizona in 2019. There was a safety driver at the wheel, but that driver was reportedly watching a television show on her smartphone prior to the crash. The car accident law firm negotiated a settlement for the victim’s family out of court for an undisclosed amount, but the project never recovered.

Current Status of Autonomous Driving

As of today, the self-driving car remains elusive. There is no car on the road at this time that can operate in diverse driving conditions in any kind of weather without having a human at least partially responsible for decision-making. That said, there are vehicles that are almost self-driving. 

U.S. News and World Report has released a list of some quite impressive vehicles. Cameras, sensors, and radar that are able to identify objects far off in the distance have been perfected, but such features represent only 80% of the technology needed to be able to put self-driving cars into the mainstream.

There is another 20% of the technology that is still not adequately developed. The problem is the inability of computers to anticipate human behavior so that it will be clear what other drivers on the road, bicyclists, and pedestrians are going to do. Research continues and several companies are investing billions of dollars:

  •  Alphabet/Google
  •  Tesla
  •  General Motors
  •  Uber
  •  Intel
  •  Nvidia
  •  Luminar
  •  Baidu
  •  Velodyne Lidar

Investors are snapping up self-driving car stocks as companies race to introduce the first 100 percent autonomous vehicle to the market.

Level 5 Autonomous Driving, The Latest Technology Available

While the completely driverless car may be some way off, Level 5 Autonomous Driving is at our doorstep, according to Tesla’s Elon Musk. These cars are unique because they are able to navigate with zero input from the driver. 

So, apparently progress is being made, but automobile industry experts say that even when the technology is ready to roll, public trust is still going to be an issue. To get people used to the idea, there are companies that argue the way to get more autonomous vehicles on the road is by using them in a controlled setting. 

May Mobility operates shuttles that are autonomous in Detroit, Columbus, and Providence. The shuttles are not truly full-size cars, but rather, similar to oversized golf carts that don’t travel over speeds of 25 miles per hour. Even so, proponents say they provide a valuable public transportation service where none was available. A similar project is being instituted in Boston.

Despite these efforts, completely autonomous vehicles appear to sometime out in the future. Fortunately, consumers can get a taste of what’s to come and enjoy vehicles that do have some autonomous technology integrated into them, as in the case of those with Level 5 autonomous driving.

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