Have you ever gotten into a car, and as soon as you drive onto the main road, particularly at rush hour, there is some sort of traffic congestion? The answer is yes for pretty much everyone reading this of course. Now, imagine what it would be like if you never experienced a traffic jam again. What about being able to sit down and read a book while your car takes you to your destination? Now, you’re probably thinking either that I am crazy, or you probably already know about self-driving cars.
Self-driving or automated cars are cars which incorporate the use of vehicular automation, which uses artificial intelligence among other things. According to SAE International, there are six levels of automation in vehicles: level 0 providing no automation whatsoever, level 1 providing hands on or hybrid control, level 2 is hands off, level 3 is eyes off, level 4 is mind off and level 5 means the steering wheel is totally optional.
Currently, we are at level 2, where we can let the car do the steering, accelerating and braking, while us humans still need to be well aware of what is happening and be ready to intervene when needed.
There has been steady progress in this field over that past number of years, although unfortunately a little slower than expected. However, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has recently announced that it had begun carring employees in electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs without human backup drivers. So, it is clear that we are getting somewhere.
So, how long will it be until our dream of escaping those terrible traffic predicaments and endulging in the latest Sally Rooney novel in the driving seat (or “driving” seat, I should note)? Well, fully autonoumous vehicles will probably take a good few decades before we see them flying down the M50, but their safety, efficiency, convenience and cost, along with many other factors, will make them ever-present in the years to come.