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Automation can bring tremendous benefits. Factory automation improved manufacturing quality and productivity. Now home automation is enhancing energy efficiency and household security. In the future, we may also experience complete vehicle automation for safety and convenience. With autonomous cars, you can let your car drive you to the office while you enjoy your morning coffee. Go on vacations to new places while letting the car do the driving and navigation. The seeds have already been planted so it’s only a matter of time before these become possible. However, some problems still need to be solved before we can surrender the driving wheel to machines.

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Top Reasons Autonomous Cars Aren’t On The Roads Yet

In this article, we discuss some of the top reasons why self-driving cars are not on the road yet.

1. Sensor Accuracy

car with lane departure warning system

People use their senses to observe the environment and guide their cars. Our eyes see the turns along the roads and the hazards that we must avoid. Our ears may warn us about other vehicles approaching at high speed. In order for machines to become self-reliant, they need to have sensors of their own. Cameras, lasers, and radars are all being used for this purpose. They gather data that the car’s computer interprets for decision-making. While these sensors work well in ideal conditions, they have much room to improve when the weather is bad, the road signs have been defaced, and the traffic is heavy. A more robust sensor system is required.

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2. Machine Learning

Based on the data gathered, onboard computers will make internal models of the outside world and try to detect the objects within it. These machines will need to learn over time how to distinguish one object from another. They can classify road signs, hazards, humans, vehicles, trees, and other objects within their range. They should also be able to detect traffic lights and obey them. Thanks to these algorithms, it is easier for the car to follow road rules and avoid hazards. They can slow down, stop, or swerve depending on the situation. Machine learning capabilities will have to be tested for reliability and efficiency.

 

3. Adaptation and Stability

Driverless cars will be equipped with their own knowledge base from the beginning. Buyers should be able to use them right out of the dealership with confidence. However, the maps, road rules, and object models they contain are likely to become outdated in time. New buildings and bridges will be built. The flow of traffic may be re-routed. New hazards may emerge out of nowhere. These complications can put into question the ability of the car to keep its passengers safe. Manufacturers must find ways to allow their onboard systems to adapt to changing situations quickly while maintaining stability.

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4. Regulations and Standards

image of rules and regulations of autonomous cars

The current car manufacturing standards have been drawn with the assumption that a capable driver is behind the wheel. At the very least, a human can intervene in case of an emergency. For fully autonomous cars, the vehicles must be able to handle the complexity of these situations. No holistic regulations are available as of yet but specific standards are emerging for certain functions like automated lane-keeping. In a few years, more might be added until an entire body of international standards is in place to guide the industry and protect the well-being of the consumers.

5. Public Acceptance

Even if all technological barriers have been overcome, the industry will still have to grapple with the public’s perception of car automation. Will the drivers trust their cars enough to hand over the controls at all times? Will pedestrians and cyclists be willing to share the road with these self-driving vehicles? There have been highly publicized accidents involving partially automated cars from the most vocal brands. Until the fears brought about by their failures are assuaged, there will be strong resistance to their presence on public roads.

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6. Cost of Development For Self-Driving Cars

image of high costs of driverless cars

The research and development required to produce autonomous cars are incredibly expensive. Billions of dollars have been poured into these projects across many years. More investments will be necessary still. Coming up with the funds is always a challenge. Companies have had to build their own roads to serve as private testing facilities so that they can control the environment to suit their needs. They’ve had to hire the best engineers to solve the persistent technological issues that they encountered. Although there has been much progress, the remaining problems are not trivial. There are years of hard work ahead.

7. Legal Questions

Finally, there are legal questions about self-driving cars that have yet to be resolved. They might reach a high level of safety but a few accidents may continue to happen. In these cases, it is unclear as to which party will bear the responsibilities. Can the owners proclaim their innocence since they are not in control of the vehicle? Can all of the passengers drink while riding as they trust the car to keep them safe? Should the carmaker be blamed for resulting injuries and property damage? Are licenses still necessary if you won’t be driving? These are interesting questions to tackle in Congress once the big push towards full automation gets underway.

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