The end of driving as we know it

zoox car model
(Photo: ZF)
For the petrol heads out there, who relish the smell of gasoline and the sound of a roaring engine, and thrive on the adrenaline rush of racing up and down mountain roads, I have to tell you that the days of you behind the wheels of cars are numbered. Sooner than you think. Most road-legal cars will be “self-driving” soon. Yes, really.اضافة اعلان

Imagine riding in your car, talking to it, telling it where to go, and then sitting back and relaxing, without any intervention in operating the vehicle. You can text, watch videos online, hold online meetings, or even take a nap. That fantasy is closer to reality than we all think.

Car makers and tech giants like Apple and Google are racing towards the realization of a driverless vehicle. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence, radars, mapping, and car-installed computing capabilities, the possibility seeing a self-driving car legally on the streets of big cities is imminent.

Whenever this topic of autonomous driving is brought up, the name of the Silicon Valley car maker Tesla comes to mind, being a leader is this field. Current Tesla models offer level 2 autonomous driving today, which means that the car can practically make its some driving decisions like changing lanes or turning or stopping based on what the car’s computer decides is safe and legal. Current road safety laws mandate the presence of a human driver to allow the usage of this technology on public roads.

Tesla is currently working relentlessly to deploy level 3 autonomous, which is the next level of self-driving, as soon as the end of this year 2021.

Other electric vehicle makers from the US, China, and elsewhere, and more established brands like Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, Hyundai, Toyota, and Lexus, to name a few, are hot on Tesla’s heels. They’ve managed to catch up and are currently offering level 2 autonomous driving features, and are not far behind in offering more advanced levels. Tech companies on the other hand, have covered a lot of ground in the advancement of the technologies leading to the autonomous dream. LIDAR technology, which stands for “‘light detection and ranging”, is used in an ever-increasing number of autonomous vehicles to navigate environments in real time.

The main challenges that hold back the mass deployment of autonomous driving tech in your average car are mainly related to costs and laws. The faster the drop in the cost of developing the needed components of self-driving systems, the sooner the integration of this technology will be realized. Additionally, car makers and tech companies need to accelerate their government lobbying efforts in order to change traffic and road safety laws and regulations in order to make autonomous driving legal. 

Autonomous driving could have a positive impact on road safety and decrease road accidents and the human cost in injuries and fatalities it causes, and also improve traffic flow and ease congestions in big cities.

However, the lack of the man-machine connections will be missed, and I imagine in the not-so-distant future driving will become a cult practice of a few who will, far from the public eye, practice their passion behind the wheel on some deserted road in the middle of nowhere.

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