Will Automated Cars Make Us Safer?

Will Automated Cars Make Us Safer?
Carnegie Mellon University’s driverless car.

The world of autonomously driven cars took a step forward in the political process yesterday when it transported a congressman from Pennsylvania. Yet, will having automated cars make us safer?

Republican Representative Bill Shuster from Altoona Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, took a 33 mile ride from Cranberry Township to Pittsburgh International. The ride was from a direverless Cadillac SRX designed by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

Will Automated Cars Make Us Safer?
Rep. Bill Shuster (R)

The original design concept car that Carnegie Mellon, which Shuster saw some five years prior, was packed full of the equipment necessary to navigate traffic. The newest iteration looked just like any other 2011 model of the Cadillac SRX with the equipment hidden throughout. While a technician traveled in the front seat ready to take over if need be, the car drove itself successfully to the destination going from stop and go town traffic, to the 65 mile an hour freeway, into the urban environment to the airport.

This marks a mile stone in the technology for self-driving vehicles, but, more importantly, the chair of the department that will one day approve them for consumer use now has a clear concept of a working vehicle. It may seem minor, but when it comes to technological innovations policy usually take a while to catch up.

Now, we will never be able to create a machine that will unerringly navigate a world of mixed drivers (i.e. computer driven vs human driven), yet, as more and more vehicles become automated, it seems the accident rate will decrease significantly. The idea is that it would increase safety for humans to travel, but, we have to ask, and politicians will, “will automated cars make us safer?”

Perhaps, like in iRobot, we will have cars driving at hundreds of miles an hour on auto pilot. Then we could use an even simpler machine than the ones being developed in order to transport people. All that device would have to do is plot a course, figure out a route, and negotiate with the other automated vehicles.

As we move closer and closer to real automated vehicles on the road there will have to be huge changes to the vehicle codes. Lt. Kevin Meyer, a law enforcement officer of Cranberry Township (which was the town the automated Cadillac started from) recognized that law enforcement would have to adapt to such changes in technology.

“We have to wait for the Pennsulvania laws to catch up with the technology that’s involved in this vehicle.” Meyer imagined a senario in which a driverless vehicle gets into an accident with a human driven one. “Who do we write up if there’s a violation?” Meyer asked.

This is only one place where they may be issues. It is easy to see the fun in an automated car, putting in the destination, sitting back and getting there with little effort is done on your part, but what happens if something does go wrong?

The difficulty with bringing this technology to consumers, it would seem, is that human drivers are going to be much more unpredictable than the computer driven ones. There seems like there might be some dangerous intermediate ground until all cars are automated, if that every happens. Only time will be able to tell is automated cars will make us safer or not, but it is still fun to think about telling your car where to go and getting there while you read a book.

Written by: Iam Bloom

Source from AP

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