Autonomous Vehicles have the potential to change the transportation industry, the automotive industry, the economy, and the world as we know it.
Autonomous vehicles have been assigned four classification levels by the government.
Level 1 – Function-specific Automation: Automation of specific control functions, such as cruise control, lane guidance and automated parallel parking. Drivers are fully engaged and responsible for overall vehicle control.
Level 2 - Combined Function Automation: Automation of multiple and integrated control functions, such as adaptive cruise control with lane centering. Drivers are responsible for monitoring the roadway and are expected to be available for control at all times, but under certain conditions can disengaged from vehicle operation.
Level 3 - Limited Self-Driving Automation: Drivers can cede all safety-critical functions under certain conditions and rely on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions that will require transition back to driver control. Drivers are not expected to constantly monitor the roadway.
Level 4 - Full Self-Driving Automation: Vehicles can perform all driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip, and so may operate with occupants who cannot drive and without human occupants.
As autonomous vehicles log more miles at each classification level, the technology proves itself to be even safer.
Google's AV (Autonomous vehicle) program has currently driven over 2 million miles and has only caused one accident in which the car was only going 2 mph and had a minor accident with a bus which came up from behind the car at 15 mph as it changed lanes. The success of Google's AV program jump started the race toward fully autonomous vehicles in the automotive industry.
Some of the newest self driving technology is being introduced by Tesla. All of their new vehicles now come with the hardware capable to make the vehicle autonomous. To learn more about the new technology being used by Tesla click the link below.
The big players in the autonomous driving industry are Google and Tesla, but other companies are making major investments to try to get a piece of the market.
"Earlier this year GM invested 500 million USD in Lyft, purchased self driving technology startup Cruise Automation for more than 1 billion USD and announced in July that GM will build its first self driving cars for use within the Lyft fleet as self-driving taxi."
BMW also announced they would have a self driving car for sale in 5 years. Uber recently began self driving taxi trials in Pittsburgh, and Ford announced they plan to have fully autonomous Fords by 2021.
Autonomous vehicle benefits
- Increased Safety: AVs can reduce common accident risks and therefore crash costs. Reduction of vehicle crashes leading to less traffic and safer roads; this could be especially effective at reducing high risk driving such as driving when impaired.
- Reduced Congestion: AVs can perform two to three times better than traffic lights, thus they can smoothly handle much more congested traffic.
- Supports shared vehicles: AVs have the potential to facilitate car sharing and vehicle renting services in place of vehicle ownership which can provide a wide range of savings.
- Reduced driver stress: the stress of driving is mitigated and motorists can rest and work while traveling. This may free up 50 minutes per day for motorists.
Costs and Problems associated with autonomous vehicles.
- Increased Vehicle Cost: AVs require more advanced equipment, services, and maintenance.
- Additional Risks: AVs introduce the risk of system failures and the risk of hacking.
- Reduction of employment and business activity: Jobs for taxi drivers and truck drivers will decline, taking away an important source of middle class employment.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Although there are some risks associated with the adoption of autonomous vehicles, the rewards far outweigh the risks. According the the department of transportation, the statistical value of a life is $9.2 million. Therefore, since over 30,000 people are killed each year, even if autonomous vehicles did not reduce crashes at the rate predicted and they killed 10,000 people per year, these cars would still be saving 20,000 lives. Say that they did in fact save all 30,000 lives a year, then the yearly benefit would be $276 billion. Add in crashes were people were injured or no one was hurt, you get a savings of $642 billion if all accidents are prevented.
Now, some crashes will still occur from system failures, but the overall economic benefit of autonomous vehicles is enormous. Some of this economic gain can then be put towards the cost associated with autonomous vehicles as well as new infrastructure needed to help the cars communicate with lights and other vehicles.