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Self-Driving Cars: Would You Hand the Wheel Over to a Computer?

Are you ready to share the road with self-driving cars? According to a recent survey by the University of Michigan, 37.2 percent of drivers are “very concerned” about riding in a self-driving car, while 66.6 percent are “very or moderately concerned.” Simply put, the public isn’t quite ready for self-driving cars. Although, the gradual adoption of vehicles equipped with assisted-driving technology is already happening.

In a culture where people take great pride in car ownership and driving skills, it’s no wonder why self-driving cars are a tough sell. After all, when riding in a self-driving car, you’re essentially giving up complete control of what happens on the road. For many drivers, that’s a scary thought–as evidenced by this elderly woman experiencing automated driving for the first time.

Despite the sheer terror associated with handing over the wheel to a computer, the technology behind self-driving cars (advanced driver assistance systems) can already be found in many of today’s vehicles. Plus, new forms of this technology are being added to the latest vehicle models. Here are some examples of ADAS technology from Wikipedia:

One way that the automotive industry is currently taking advantage of ADAS technology is to have it assist drivers when needed. This is a much different approach than using it to fully automate the entire driving experience.

As seen by companies like Toyota with their “Guardian Angel” program, ADAS technology can be effectively used to assist drivers. This is achieved by having cars learn the driver’s habits for the sake of providing them feedback on becoming better motorists, as well as having the car take complete control of the vehicle in order to prevent a crash. The goal here is to leverage this technology to improve safety, and ultimately, reduce the number of deaths associated with car crashes (30,000 deaths per year in the U.S.).

Of course, the current challenge faced by developers is to know when it’s appropriate for the car to take control away from its human driver. Gil Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, explains to CIO, “Your car may someday warn you several times about a particularly dangerous driving habit you have before taking control of the wheel. Autonomous driving capabilities are measured on a government scale of zero to four, with zero being no automation, and four being fully automated. The focus of most of the discussion among car makers today is how far up the scale they should go and how quickly. There’s a lot of discussion in the industry whether we go incrementally up the scale or whether we jump.”

Eventually, this technology will be fully realized and mass produced. In fact, CIO reports that, “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced earlier this year that 20 automakers have pledged to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard on their cars by 2022.” Like other useful technologies that the public was initially skeptical or even scared of (like electricity and airplanes), it will just take time for people to get used to it.

What about you? How willing are you to ride in a self-driving car? Would you trust assisted-driving technology to take over for you when the situation on the road becomes dicey? Share with us your thoughts in the comments.


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