Are driver-less cars safe?

The recent crash in Florida involving the Tesla Car and the Lorry in which the car driver died will no doubt again raise concerns on the safety of driver-less car technology but I am very much hoping that this doesn’t become a huge setback.

The saddest thing of all here really is the irony with the driver as the man himself, Joshua Brown, was reportedly a really great advocate of this technology and did so warmly praise his vehicle and his loss of life the way it happened was tragic. There are also claims that he was watching a film at the time too, though apparently this is not possible accordingly to Tesla Motors while the vehicle is in motion – nonetheless this should largely be an irrelevance were the technology mature enough and able to both detect and deal with such scenarios and correspondingly programmed to abide by the law of the land.

The car is equipped with image recognition cameras, radar technology, and ultrasonic sonar and much of this will probably undergo some degree of scrutiny until given a clean bill of health by transportation governing officials but perhaps there should also be traffic ‘assists’ from the Dept. of Transport roadside technology that could interface with such a car to provide additional clarification, such as the feeding of nearby traffic incidents and the proximity of other vehicles into the car’s own system directly – just as they do with air traffic control warnings. This would address a range of issues and provide an additional set of ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ thereby enhancing the vehicle’s own detection capabilities by effectively extending the operational range.

Sharing road space with driver-driven vehicles is also going to be so difficult to begin with, but we had much of these same misgivings when Trams were reintroduced in some key UK provincial towns and cities and much of those fears have not materialised as people do eventually adjust once they get used to them and they become a kind of ‘cultural norm’. We could do much the same with driver-less vehicles and have a phased implementation with dedicated lanes exclusively for driver-less vehicles where possible.

It’s official! There are far too many accidents caused by careless driving and some smaller amounts by sheer reckless driving. I have personally witnessed numerous dangerous incidents on motorways where people have allowed themselves to become distracted and temporarily lost control of their vehicle and far too many drivers change lanes abruptly on the late realising their required exit is immediately upon them. Having never previously encountered a Tesla in operation, I would like to share my own fairly-recent Range Rover experience with a top model that has this cruise-control function that will automatically reduce the speed when the vehicle in front also slows down and closes the safe distance between us, but then resume the set cruising speed once the normal driving conditions return. I cautiously engaged the system and slightly moved my feet away from the pedals and hoped for the best but there was really nothing to fear. The dashboard displays an array of images and readouts measuring both the distance to the next vehicle ahead and the speed of my own and reacted to any changes like a seasoned driver would have done, truly remarkable! I do admit that I was sorely tempted to hit the brakes myself at one point but I held out long enough to see the system engage and could not help also think that this could be the end of the typical rear-end collision scenario that is all too-common on long straight roads – a big thumbs up in safety from me!

This type of technology is very much on the rise and so must also be present in other vehicles from other manufacturers too and so it is a natural progression to eventually see more hi-tech vehicles like the Tesla sometime soon and we know the Google are heavily involved with their own developments. Hi-tech vehicles have the potential to ultimately become very safe, let’s just hope that that it doesn’t take so long to get there and incidents like these don’t lead to the widespread failure to adopt them.

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