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Are autopilot cars the future? The risks and facts about autopilot cars, revealed

Latest car guides

September 1st 2021 info

The automotive industry is ever-changing. However, instead of new engines, designs or mechanical advancements, the most exciting development concerns how we drive. Enhancements in autonomous driving, including integrations of new AI tech, means self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality.

Once thought of as science fiction, autonomous vehicles are entering the realms of reality. However, are these cars safe? Are there any benefits to autonomous vehicles? Do they have any risks? How do they work?

Below, we discuss self-driving cars, including how they work, their risks and their benefits.

What are autonomous vehicles?

“Autonomous cars” refers to vehicles with some capacity for self-driving. They do this with a complex network of software and hardware to safely take over all or parts of driving.

So, it’s not only self-driving, but extra safety functions such as emergency braking, autopilot and other features.

As soon as there is some artificial intelligence (AI) influence over a driver’s decisions, it is considered an autonomous vehicle.

How do autonomous cars work?

So, how does a self-driving car work in reality? Autonomous cars use sensors and cameras to read their surroundings. The car then uses this information via its AI integration to make decisions.

For example, sensors could detect vehicles near the car, while cameras detect traffic lights, pedestrians, etc. Light bouncing off a car’s sensors using lidar (light detection and ranging) technology communicates more information, too.

All this information is then passed on to a car’s AI. These AI integrations use safe code to make changes to the car, such as braking, steering and acceleration. The information is then filtered through a car’s native algorithms for object identification and predictive modelling leading to on-road decisions.

Benefits of autonomous vehicles

Understandably, drivers can feel nervous about placing so much trust in AI. Nobody likes to take risks on the road, and drivers want to be in control of everything.

However, there is a reason why autonomous vehicles are being made. They come with a number of benefits, and most of these concern safety.

Autonomous vehicles have been proven to reduce the number of on-road accidents. The majority of accidents are down to human error – if you take out human error, then accidents reduce. This has been proven in many studies, with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT)’s 2017 study showing that the rate of accidents would fall by 90% with autonomous driving.

Alongside this, integrations such as better AI-controlled gear and braking choices helps to save fuel emissions. For example, an Ohio University study found that emissions could dip by up to 60% if autonomous driving was adopted.

This will help save on fuel, too, with less petrol and diesel being wasted. That’s better for driver’s wallets, plus the in-car experience will be better. Autonomous driving means a more nuanced infotainment dashboard, leading to improved entertainment, more information and a more pleasant driving experience.

Journeys will shorten significantly, too. A 2015 KPMG study discovered that autonomous vehicles can cut journey times by up to 60% by having a more efficient drive.

The benefits of self-driving cars are evident, so why is adoption such a rocky subject? Well, autonomous vehicles aren’t perfect.

Criticisms of autonomous vehicles

Despite their advantages, the market doesn’t trust autonomous driving enough yet. The biggest black mark against self-driving cars is this lack of trust. However, the actual issues with autonomous driving do not match up with the market’s criticisms.

As we’ve covered, autonomous vehicles are safe. However, they are difficult to manufacture. As we’ve seen with the recent semiconductor shortage, modern cars rely on electronics to a large degree, meaning more logistics, a longer manufacturing cycle and more intricate designs are needed year after year.

These manufacturing hurdles mean greater pressures on carmakers, as well as a higher price for new vehicles. Questions have also been raised around the long-term feasibility of these vehicles, and whether the used car market will be as abundant as it is now with ageing, autonomous cars. Can a car’s AI function over 20 years?

There are also ethical considerations. Technology is playing a bigger role in our lives, and concerns have been raised that it’s becoming overbearing. Do our cars need to be moving computers? Do we really need to rely on AI to make on-road decisions for us?

Overall, the criticisms of autonomous vehicles concern manufacturing and ethical issues more so than safety. The market doesn’t trust self-driving cars just yet because of the perceived safety implications, so better education is needed to ensure the potential of autonomous driving isn’t lost.

Are self-driving cars the future?

For now, you can trust the used car market. Even though autonomous driving is on the way, there are quite a few hurdles to pass until it becomes mainstream.

At findandfindmycar.com, we have a range of used cars available from dealers across the UK. From modern runners to classic vehicles, we’re sure there’ll be something for you.

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