The state of self driving cars

By now, most people have heard of the Google Self-Driving Car project. It started out as an on-a-whim project and has turned into what could easily be a technological revolution in the auto industry. However, most people don’t know where we currently stand on driverless vehicles – are they ready to go? How long before we can reasonably expect to see them on the market? How much will they cost? We’re aiming to answer a few of those questions here.

Who’s making the self driving cars?

Right now, there are a few companies which are looking at producing driverless vehicles. The one everyone already knows about is Google. They may not have invented the idea of the self driving car, but they have certainly pioneered it in the last decade. The Google version of this idea is probably the most advanced at the moment, as well as the version most likely to hit the market soon. However, there are a few different options available.

If you’re more of a fan of luxury (and have the money to back it up), Mercedes already has a pretty amazing self driving car. The Mercedes F015 was recently spotted driving itself around the streets of San Francisco in style, catching eyes and making headlines.

Also in the headlines recently was a self-driving transport truck which has been approved to drive on US highways. The Inspiration Truck could eventually be a solution to the problems that humans have faced with long-haul driving since the first highway.

We’ve also heard rumors lately that Apple might be working on a self driving car. This seems likely, since they’ve always felt they need to keep up with Google, no matter the industry. This is just speculation as of right now, though.

What will self driving cars cost?

This is the big question on everyone’s mind – what will these things set us back? Well, this is a tough question to answer. We know that the Google version has somewhere between $70,000 and $110,000 worth of technology behind the wheel, and that’s just the self-driving stuff – the car itself will certainly add to that. The Mercedes car we mentioned above is just a show model for now – it’s not certain that we’ll ever see a production run of that car.

Apple will surely charge quite a bit more than Google for their version – this has always been the case. If Google is going to be starting out at the $120,000 – $200,000 price range, we can only imagine that Apple and Mercedes will be quite a bit higher than that. Again though, this is all speculation at this point.

Are these things even safe?

Another big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not these cars are safe. Well, studies show that something like 85% of collisions are caused by human error. On top of that, Google has logged over 1.7 million miles on their test models and only have experienced 11 accidents – all of which were caused by drivers around the Google car.

Over 30,000 people die every year in car accidents. My opinion is that if even 1/10th of that number is gone because of self driving cars, it’s worth it. However, the tests we’ve seen so far seem to indicate that self driving cars could make vehicle fatalities seem nonexistent.

Ok, so what are the drawbacks?

These things sound amazing, and if you’re anything like me, you’re eager to see them hit the market. My biggest concern when driving has always been how other people around me are going to behave, and the knowledge that a machine – which can make calculations and take in factors thousands of times faster than humans can – is operating the vehicle next to me would make me rest easier. However, the technology isn’t perfect and it’s important to know what they can’t do yet.

Right now, the Google cars have trouble with things like construction zones, temporary traffic lights, and heavy weather like rain and snow. Another, more nuanced issue that the self driving cars seem to have is differentiating between dangerous debris in the roadway and harmless things like a plastic cup or soda can.

These are all serious concerns that need to be addressed before these cars will ever be taken seriously, so we’re curious to see what Google does with them.

Conclusion

We’re probably still at least a few years away from any reasonable self driving car appearing on the market. However, the technology is fascinatiing and is improving by the day, so we’ll all have to watch with bated breath while the tech giants of the world riddle the problems out. One thing that seems certain, however, is that they’re coming to a roadway near you, sooner than you might think.

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