Could Driverless Cars Be In Our Near Future?
I love dystopian sci-fi movies like I, Robot. I’m fascinated by the fictional technologies and concepts writers use to populate their futuristic worlds; whether it’s humanoid robots, holograms, driverless cars or Will Smith’s disdain for anything that doesn’t run on food or motor oil. I am especially interested in the cars in I, Robot. I feel they are the best example of a plausible driverless car that could inhabit our near future. Actually, in light of recent innovations, that future may be closer than one might expect.
This past May, the first license for a self-driven car was given out by the Nevada DMV to a Toyota Prius, which is apart of the Google Driverless Car project. Keep in mind this is most likely for testing purposes. I doubt any driverless cars will come to market anytime soon. However, the technology is certainly there. Automated guided vehicles have been active in many factories for over 60 years. These vehicles, or AGVs, increase the efficiency of material handling for many companies. They are completely autonomous when navigating around the factory. A driverless car would most likely need a more complex version of the navigation systems AGVs utilize.
It may seem like an unnecessary luxury but there are many benefits to implementing a road network using only automatic guided vehicles. It will eliminate human error, use the road more efficiently, take away the need for traffic cops, and dramatically increase traffic speed. The major barrier to the implementation of driverless cars is the transitional period where human drivers would still occupy the road. It is easier to program cars to be in-sync with other automated cars, but there is a need to develop a car that can navigate while avoiding environmental obstacles and other vehicles. Either a large-scale project upgrading our entire existing transportation infrastructure would be required or some way for cars to communicate with each other, aka RFID chips.
Already being implemented in some AGV systems, RFID tags could be used so cars can communicate with one another on while driving. For instance, if a car on the road ahead slips or detects slipper conditions it will send that information to the cars behind it to slow down or start a traction control system. This is preferable to a mastermind mega-computer control our whole traffic system waiting for the opportunity to imprison us because of some weird spin on the “must protect humans” logic.