Self-Driving Car Misconceptions

It’s ten years from now and all cars are completely self driven by computers. There are no car accidents and no associated injuries or fatalities. Riding in a car has become safer than flying and even staying at home. Thanks to technology, the person riding in such a car can kick off his shoes, relax, and even take a nap until informed by the computer that he has reached his destination.

The above is a condensed version of common misconceptions about cars that will be self-driven in the near future. They are the result of popular culture formed by Hollywood, science fiction, and lots of extrapolation from the capabilities of Google’s self driving car. Here are two myths that depart from the current realities of autonomous cars:

Self Driving Cars Will Be Incapable of Errors

The person believing that computers don’t make mistakes haven’t had much experience with a certain well-known computer operating system. While computers unerringly (for the most part) perform arithmetical operations at blazingly fast speeds, their performance with more complex activities are less than stellar. One problem lies with their software that must take into account the many variables associated with complicated activities like driving a car.

One of the early “bugs” in Google’s self driven car (that was quickly fixed) was that it misinterpreted heavy water spray from truck tires as solid objects that were obstructing the car. The real world is endlessly creative in the odd and unusual things that it can throw your way. Writing software that can effectively cope with every one of these curve balls will be quite the challenge. Artificial intelligence has a long way to go before it can duplicate what the well experienced human brain does as a matter of course.

The Passenger Won’t Have to Do a Thing

Given the previous misconception, someone in the car will have to be ready to manually drive the car if it makes a mistake or decides to hand over control of the car should the computer decide that it doesn’t know what to do. The self-driving car will be more like a fancy cruise control that can also handle the other controls when conditions are right. When they deviate beyond the normal operating parameters of the computer, the task of controlling the car will have to be assumed by the human driver.

Self driving cars are a reality and over the coming years, the technology will make its way into the cars we drive. However, its capabilities will not exactly match our expectations.

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