Autonomous cars and the future of driving

In 18th century, we witnessed a revolution that leapfrogged human evolution process–Industrial revolution. It disrupted the existing way of life and created norms. Removed inefficiencies and presented new opportunities for human evolution. We are witnessing another revolution now- digital revolution. Digital revolution has already started disrupting industries, changing existing norms and removing inefficiencies in the existing processes. It has disrupted numerous industries including media , banking, insurance etc. Automotive sector is the latest sector that is affected by the digital revolution through the Autonomous driving technology.
Autonomous driving suddenly made the incumbents, who were in dominant in the industries for decades, at a disadvantage. But does really autonomous driving could change the future of automobile industry or is it another buzzword created by the tech and consulting companies to sell their old wine in the new bottle. Lets check.

First of all, autonomous cars are not an entirely new concept. Assistive driving was tried by the industry for a long time and automobiles provides driving assistance in terms cruise control, intelligent parking assistant, highway navigation for the past 2 decades. Autonomous driving is the next step in this evolutionary process. As per Wikipedia, autonomous cars are vehicles that are capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. This is attained by using sensors around the car to monitor its environments and intelligent software systems present in the car to analyze this data and provide real time decisions. The sensors fitted in the car collects the data around its surroundings. The software system plots this data over the digital maps available in the cars and get an understanding of the environment and the road conditions. Then AI systems in the cars take decisions based on these plotted data and thus controls the car.

Why autonomous cars
Autonomous cars can be safer than regular human driven cars. It has been said that Human driver is a bug in the driving system. Studies shows that almost 85% of the accidents are caused human errors and thus eliminating this error factor would makes our roads safer. From our experience with machines, we can safely say that they can act with more precision and error free than any humans in tasks that they can be relied upon. With machines, chances of error are very few compared to humans. We can expect the software to obey the road rules and drive in the maximum efficient way, our roads will be much more safer and cleaner with autonomous driving . Also it will free the humans of another monotonous task and give them a breather in the hectic urban life. In a world that is craving for time, autonomous cars could be a big time saver for many.

Are we ready for fully autonomous cars?
Is this a technology that would be accepted by people around the globe or is this nerdy dream? Do the companies who claim in the forefront of this technological revolution poses adequate technologies required. Definitely fully autonomous cars are not evolved yet. A lot of Researches and innovations are required to fuel this concept forward. Even though evolved a lot in recent decades, sensor technology cannot still replace the human senses, but merely assist it. Also the real time decision-making mechanisms too need further polishing before it can be used for any commercial deployment. A single flow in the system can be fatal and may negatively affect the entire progress made by the industry. AI systems have to consider numerous factors before taking any decisions including a possible human from a third party in the road. Also further evolutions need to be done mapping technologies to identify and map the complete road infrastructure and get the minute details required for decision-making.
Apart from technology, there is the human part. Are the consumers ready for such a technology? Researches have been said that driving is a pressure releasing activity for many and people take pride in the way they drive vehicles. So, does the mass accept an autonomous driving car where they have to rely on a machine for their transportation and safety? There is always a question of how reliable these machines and their intelligence is.

Creation of new monopolies
Self-driving technology requires enormous investment of time and money. Not everyone could afford that. This may results in the creation of new monopolies in the industry. Currently only a few technology companies like Google’s waymo, Tesla and Uber poses the technology for self-driving cars and the incumbent automobile firms have to rely on these tech majors for their future cars. A few of the automobile majors have created collisions to create automobile cars to prevent the creation of a few monopolies in the field. But still these all are in the infancy stages. Many automobile majors have opted to create tie-ups with the technology firms for the autonomous driving technology. Analysts fear that this would result in current automobile firms to be the mere hardware providers for the cars, similar to what happened in PC industry.

Autonomous cars have its limitations. It is a technology that is evolving and definitely is the future of driving. However, In the future, I believe, self-driving cars would be limited only to enthusiasts and hobbyist drivers in the future. Autonomous cars would take over the role of daily commutation especially in the urban areas. And it will be new beginning the evolution of human commutation