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Robot car kills Texas oil man

That same computer revolution, that allowed us, the convenience, of taking traffic school from our own homes, is creating Autonomous (self-driving cars).  The shift away from the Texas oil-man's gasoline, to electric power is only one of the likely trends as engineers determine how best to put a computer behind the wheel.


Other trends predicted include:  

  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Faster highway speeds allowed for self-driving vehicles
  • Driverless taxi’s (cheaper fares)
  • Truck convoys (one trucker managing multiple trucks)
  • Safer roadways
  • Unchaperoned Preteen and elderly transport

Why worry about the future of self-driving vehicles? The future may be closer than you think.
If you think only companies like Google, Tesla and Honda are pursuing Autonomous vehicle testing in California.  Think again. According to the California DMV website, as of March 22, 2016, DMV has issued Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permits to the following entities:
 

  • Volkswagen Group of America
  • Mercedes Benz
  • Google
  • Delphi Automotive
  • Tesla Motors
  • Bosch
  • Nissan
  • Cruise Automation
  • BMW
  • Honda
  • Ford
  • Zoox, Inc.

Most of us have trouble imagining what a self-driving vehicle means in our future, but as you can see, our legislators, the DMV and car manufacturers are well past imagining and have created actual regulations.  Senate Bill 1298 (Chapter 570, Statutes of 2012) required the DMV to adopt regulations governing the testing and use of autonomous vehicles on public roadways no later than January 1, 2015. This bill defined an "Autonomous vehicle" as any vehicle equipped with autonomous technology that has been integrated into that vehicle. The legislation also defines the vehicle operator of the autonomous vehicle as a person seated in the “driver’s seat” or if there is no person in the driver’s seat, the person who is causing the autonomous technology to engage.

Why would you want a self-driving vehicle?  Can computer cars be trusted?  The truth is the public is already trusting some computer regulated systems. Many new cars already offer automated emergency braking, lane departure warning, electronic blind spot assistance or adaptive cruise control.  Interestingly enough, many of these features do not fall under the legislation for self-driving.   
With any unknown new technology, the lists of pros and cons seem endless. Let’s first touch upon some of the positive aspects of autonomous driving.  Computers are nearly instantaneous at reacting to a potential crash situation, and given the current traffic accident fatality rate of upwards of 33,000 people annually, any form of safety enhancement is a great thing. Computers not only react faster, they don’t become bored or distracted while driving. Who doesn’t want to let the computer take the wheel and spend their time doing something more constructive, like checking their Facebook page? LOL. The disabled or elderly driver would gain a huge advantage in independence from a limited public transit system or assistance required from able bodied drivers. The same advantage goes to the driver who may have had a little too much to drink.
Most of our cons in this new endeavor fall in the area of our reluctance to give control to inanimate objects that have not yet proven themselves. There are also the fears related to system break-down, whether by device failure or hacking.  Other concerns include the added expense of sensors and computer systems adding to the price tag for an average vehicle.
I guess the public, will have the final say in how quickly Autonomous Vehicles become part of our everyday life. In the meantime enjoy your time behind the wheel.

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