Self-Driving Cars: Flawless Ride or 'Carmageddon'?

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Autonomous Automobiles

Innovations in technology that make autonomous cars possible also deliver advances in driving safety and comfort features that we can take advantage of today.

Presumably, complete trust could occur when the automaker's CEO is willing to put his child or grandchild in the passenger seat, program the car to take the child to grandma’s house and let the car proceed on its own.

· Before we leave the topic of bugs, let’s ask if the cyber-security of driverless cars will be perfect? There have already been reports that hackers can, in some circumstances, alter the function of certain controls for cars requiring drivers. Imagine what a hacker could do to a driverless car! This scenario has already been proven.  Clearly, driverless cars need to be completely secure.

Managing the Transition

So, how can we make the transition safer? Some suggest a phased-in approach to give society and technology time to get used to co-navigating the roads. This seems like the most potentially dangerous idea of all, as human-navigated vehicles begin to share the road with autonomous cars, vying for the same lanes and managing sometimes treacherous road conditions together.

Those of us who are not ready, willing or able to make the leap to a self-driving auto will be affected by the coming of computer-driven vehicles nonetheless. Our previous assumptions on how other drivers should react in a given situation won't necessarily translate to the autonomous, computer-navigated vehicles sharing the road with us.

However, the root cause of any future lag in adoption of self-driving cars may not have anything to do with technology, safety, road conditions or shared roadways. For many Americans, at least, it may be a matter of freedom. American culture’s long-standing love affair with the automobile and the quest for the freedom of the open road should not be minimized.

Sure, some people intrigued by the technology of autonomous autos may be early adopters, but it will take a much wider adoption to make the R&D effort financially worthwhile, and it will take awhile for the safety and efficiency benefits to be realized beyond a lopsided mix of driver and driverless cars. 

It’s possible that our pioneering spirit may not readily adjust to back-seat driving while a computer takes over for us. So, perhaps we should not expect those who love being in control to hand over the keys anytime soon.

Driving Innovation 

The next several years will likely keep you firmly in the driver’s seat—for now. The good thing is that the innovations in technology that make autonomous cars possible also deliver advancements in driving safety and comfort features that we can take advantage of today.

For example, General Motor’s 2017 model automobiles are reported to include technology that steers, accelerates and brakes at high speeds and in congested traffic, sensing conditions and interpreting data to bring a safer and more enjoyable driving experience to consumers.

In addition, integrating IoT and analytics technology into autos both captures and contributes big data to the cause. That’s because self-driving cars are equipped with “black box” data collection devices that capture data that can be used in several ways by automobile manufacturers and state agencies to better understand and improve the driver and self-driving experience.

Mercedes Benz and Infiniti models include features that keep cars in-lane, while Cadillac's new super-cruise feature will allow self-driving for periods of time so drivers can take a break.

While it will likely take decades before we see mainstream adoption of autonomous cars, the benefits of innovation will roll out slowly but surely. But, if I were you, I wouldn’t cancel my regular carpool arrangement just yet.

John Lucker is the global advanced analytics & modeling market leader for Deloitte Analytics. Follow him on Twitter (@JohnLucker) or email him at JLucker@deloitte.com.

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This article was originally published on 2015-07-07
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