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The Race For Driverless Vehicles Where Is The Industry Heading

This is a guest post by Ronald Mccarthy.

The relationship between humans and machines extends as far back as humanity itself. Our increasing reliance on machines forced us to accept them as an integral part of our lives. In fact, this dependence is deeply embedded in our psyche and is difficult to change.

Historically, machines worked the way we directed them to. They never took decisions on their own. Our lives were made more manageable, and trust flourished, but recently, things have gone a massive change. Experts now are exploring new ways for humans and machines to collaborate. We have among us critics who promise us a new, better and seemingly, futuristic tomorrow.

But it’s the not the opinion or personal interests of the skeptics and propagators, which matter.  Instead, we need to take a more in-depth look at things, analyze the advantages and repercussions along the way and try to figure out where we would possibly end up.

Among the new technologies on the horizon, nothing has driven more discussions and debates than the domain of driverless cars. But, these autonomous vehicles are not just another technology development that doesn’t tend to have much scope outside of the realm of discussion.

Driverless cars promise a staggering $1.3 trillion in savings to the U.S economy and another $5.6 trillion in savings to the world economy if we manage to make them mainstream.

The economic incentive is one reason why a diverse range of firms, from global automobile manufacturers to tech firms to even chipmakers and e-commerce giants, are willing to invest and deploy their multi-billion dollar budgets towards the realization of this dream.

Where Does The Industry Stand Today?

Nowhere was this interest more palpable than at the recently concluded CES ’18 summit held in Las Vegas. In previous years, the Consumer Electronic Conference was a place where world’s leading firms would come forward and display their wizardry with gadgets and things like foldable televisions, and ultra-powerful computers in front of the visiting public and media.

However, this year, the conference should have been called the Cars Electronic Conference 2018. Yes, there was the total dominance of driverless vehicles among all the products and concepts displayed.

There was even a driverless taxi service at the CES ‘18 for the participants, made available through a collaboration between ride-hailing firm Lyft and Aptiv, a tech firm which deals mainly in providing electronic systems, mapping, and other advanced safety services to driverless power cars. Other companies like Toyota and Nvidia also shared their concepts and products and how they plan to develop and bring commercially viable autonomous vehicles into production as soon as possible.

While most firms have given plans to launch their autonomous vehicles with varying time frames, ranging from as early as next year to as late as 2021, the realization of this dream is still obstructed by a lot of seemingly hostile obstacles.

The Roadblocks:

People still don’t trust them enough

Firstly and perhaps most importantly, there is the issue of trust. Recent surveys have shown that a majority of people are still not comfortable with the idea of sharing their roads with a vehicle that has no human driver to control it.

Most propagators dismiss this concern as just “the fear of the unfamiliar” and suggest that the trust will be built once people regularly start interacting with autonomous vehicles more consistently. However multiple surveys have signified the fear that people have when it comes to putting their lives at at the mercy of a machine and it’s decision-making abilities.

Questions like, who will be responsible if there is a fatal accident involving a driverless car or how will the vehicle decide whether it has to protect either its passengers or a couple of bystanders are common. Similarly, ethical and moral dilemmas have to be sorted out and settled if these cars want to stand a chance at gaining acceptance at a much more broader level than current standards.

The hostility doesn’t end there, as there seems to be rooted anxiety over automation led mass unemployment and the race for driverless cars have made a lot of people like truckers, who earn their livelihood through driving, fear and even hate this new technology much before it has become mainstream.

Technological Constraints are still being addressed

The existing technology is severely limited in many aspects when it comes down to making the driverless car competent enough to pry quickly into all kinds of terrains and road conditions.

There have been reports that many autonomous demos were canceled due to the rainy conditions in Vegas during the CES 18. Snowy conditions don’t bode well for these cars either. In fact, climatic conditions are a huge problem that makers and developers need to overcome.

Being autonomous is just not good enough as these cars need to be equally competent at being ‘Snow-tonomous’ and ‘Rain-tonomous’ if they want to display their competencies at being adept at handling the task they are being developed for.

The “Rogue Robot” Scenario

The question of hacking into the systems of these driverless cars cast a large and probably a very prohibitive shadow over the viability of autonomous vehicles in the long run.

Breaking into the internal controlling and computer mechanisms of autonomous cars is not that difficult as most people believe it to be. And this potential loophole could endanger a lot more lives than the ones it intends to save.

Driverless cars have long been promoted as one of the best ways to reduce traffic accidents. However, if hackers decide to tinker with them and reconfigure them to turn into outright and massively dangerous weapons, we could find ourselves in the midst of another potentially destructive terrorist tool, ready to stoke mayhem anywhere required.

In recent years, we have seen how deadly cars and trucks can be, if used for terrorist inclinations and if these mischief mongers can do similar things without probably even leaving the comfort of their homes, the dangers to life and property become unparalleled. The system or the autopilot mechanisms which control these vehicles need to be tamperproof if these cars are really willed to save lives and not pose a danger to them.

Despite these significant obstructions, much optimism still surrounds driverless cars as they have the potential to usher us in a new era, possibly the fourth and final industrial revolution.

Much of the benefits that artificial intelligence, led by advancements in the fields of deep learning and neural networks in recent years, can accrue to the world like revolutionizing the areas of healthcare and data mining, depend primarily on the success of driverless vehicles.

If a thinking machine becomes capable of driving our cars on the scale of Level 5, where there is absolutely zero need for human intervention at any stage, we could come within striking distance of perhaps, what is the most crucial technological leap that mankind will ever take – something that will change how we live our lives on this planet forever!

Author Bio: Ronald Mccarthy is an enthusiastic blogger who loves to write on prevailing trends in the fashion and lifestyle forte. He is an avid book reader, dog lover and is passionate about turning this global village into an eco-village. Currently, he is associated with Sophie & Trey, an online clothing boutique in Lake Mary, Florida for their blog operations. Follow him on Twitter @R_Mccarthy7

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