Driverless vehicles will drastically improve road safety
Impaired driving and road rage will become incidents of the past
Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017 06:00 am
A fanciful future of flying cars has long evaded our grasp and will most likely continue to do so, yet the potential for driverless vehicles cruising around the roads and highways continues to grow.
Investing in what it expects to become an industry worth many tens of billions of dollars within the coming decades, Intel recently bought for a cool $15 billion an Israeli company called Mobileye, which has been developing computer vision for autonomous driverless vehicles.
The technology still has plenty of research and development to undergo before becoming deemed roadworthy, although such a significant investment seems to speak quite loudly for the confidence Intel has in pursuing a path that will eventually see drivers become obsolete.
But for many of us, relinquishing control of the wheel and placing our safety in the hands of computers and software — designed by other humans — might conjure up certain feelings of anxiety and doubt.
After all, computers and programs sometimes crash, right?
Yet the vast majority of us do not even think twice about boarding airplanes, which for many years have been flown by wire. Commercial airline pilots have in large part become the backup while automated flight systems have assumed the bulk of the workload.
And on that note, commercial flying is statistically proven to be by far the safest mode of transportation — far safer, in fact, than jumping into a car or truck and going for a drive.
Granted, the technological logistics of flying planes by wire will be different from operating driverless vehicles on roads, but the underlying principle remains the same — computers can safely improve our means of travel.
Really the only negative aspect of a driverless car is feeling a personal loss of control. Without a doubt plenty of people enjoy the freedom bestowed by the ability to just go for a drive.
However, the benefits of driverless technology far outweigh the inconvenience of no longer being in full operational control of a vehicle.
For starters, computers do not get angry, excited or scared. When considering the staggering number of collisions every year, there is no overlooking the simple fact that human error — which often stems from emotions like road rage or inexperience that causes panic — is a primary factor in preventable incidents.
Also, by their very nature, programs will never operate a vehicle distracted or with impaired functions such as blurry vision or dulled reaction times. The eventual switch to driverless technology, which some people predict is inevitable, will essentially eliminate the senseless loss of life caused by intoxicated drivers who decide to drive anyway.
Then, there are the perfectly sober drivers who seem completely oblivious to the most basic rules of the road. You know the ones — they stop at merges or merge through yields, make turns or lane changes without bothering to signal, as well as blow through playground zones and crosswalks with pedestrians waiting patiently for a driver who won’t run them over. To my mind, computers could not replace these reckless motorists fast enough.
Additionally, travel times are expected to decrease noticeably since computers won’t doddle while applying makeup or responding to texts when traffic lights turn green, nor will they needlessly leave light years between vehicles.
All things considered, the pros of driverless vehicles certainly seem to outweigh the cons. The only drawback is basically letting go of manual control of the vehicle.
But perhaps that sacrifice, which remains many years down the proverbial road, will be worth it if the carnage that plays out on our streets and highways every year can be reduced. Would the lives saved not be worth it?
Who knows, perhaps future generations will even look back in perplexed bewilderment at the thought of their predecessors dangerously hurtling down highways with often catastrophic results.
- Ducatel is the Sundre Round Up editor/reporter