Driverless cars – The new kids on the block


Imagine checking your e-mails or reading a novel of your favourite writer or virtual gaming all the way as you lounge, leg extended to your total comfort in front of the steering wheel with your car cruising smoothly below the speed limit on the highway without you bothering a damn about what’s happening in front of you. If you are a lactating mother and your hubby’s away for a business trip with the baby sitter not turning up for the day but you still have to go to your mother’s or to one of your best friend’s residence wouldn’t you feel completely at ease as your car steers all by itself while you breastfeed your little angel till you reach your destination. Imagine, you are more than 70, a diabetic senior citizen, feeble, fingers trembling, having osteo-arthritis, ignored by your kids but still have to go the extra miles, wouldn’t it be a boon for you if your car drives by itself till you reach your destination with you snoozing all along the way.
Humans have been given the privilege to think rationally, imagine, dream and fantasize. With the power of rational thinking and creativity gifted by the Almighty, imagination turns into reality, dreams materialise. But materialising something from imagination nowhere comes near a piece of cake. Many hurdles and obstacles are encountered by humans as they make their dreams to materialise. Everybody’s right to know that the Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Oliver Wright invented aeroplane. But nobody knows how much turmoil they faced and shed sweat of the brow as they flew for the first few metres above the ground and created history. They experienced many bruises and fractures before their invention succeeded. Even though their close aids, friends and neighbours thought that they were nuts and expressed that they were embarking on a wild goose chase, like searching for a needle in a haystack and even nomenclating them as “Bizarre Brothers”, their relentless efforts enabled them to materialise their dreams and now we are able to travel half-way round the globe by flight, courtesy, the Wright Brothers.
As humans evolved from apes to homo-sapiens and further to this 21st century, innumerable changes have taken place in various spectrum of life. In fact, change is a constant factor, just like time. As the world keeps on changing with each tick of the clock there will be no end to it. Such changes that lead to many inventions were once thought of as impossible. But the word “impossible” is getting hazy with each passing day. Many which we thought as impossible are on the verge of becoming possible. It’s unfortunate that we won’t be alive to witness what the turn of events would be in the 22nd or 23rd century. The changes will be gargantuan and mind-blowing.
Google is the first firm to produce driverless cars by the name of Stanley, more of a robotic car based on the platform of Artificial Intelligence. However, it was quite far from successful. Now Google is planning to produce ‘zero error’ driverless cars by 2020. Tesla came up with a driverless car, but it crashed due to fault in the software. Toyota Prius, Audi TT and Lexus Rx 450h are also retrofitted by Google for its driverless car fleet. With many states in United States of America such as Washington D.C, Nevada, California, Florida, Michigan et al allowing use of driverless cars even though quite not satisfactory at the present stage, efforts are on to improvise them and make them error free.
Softwares may crash so the future cars will be fitted with phantom servers where instant back-up software will be activated in the unfortunate incident of such software crash. The driverless cars are fitted with radar and a host of sensors alongwith a CPU based on AI. Even though driverless cars have some limitations when integrated into traffic with conventional vehicles, the relentless R & D is promising enough that more and more driverless cars will be coming up on the roads. A driverless car’s sensor system can detect the road, obstacles, movement and relative speed of nearby vehicles, pedestrians’ walking behaviour, edge of the travel lane, presence of traffic and traffic waiting at a light. Even wireless communication among the driverless vehicles is already on the card. Driverless cars would be good for road safety but the concept is still in its infancy. However, the degree of disparity between the efficiency of man and machine can hardly be curbed. For instance, if there’s an autonomous manually driven vehicle alongside the normal software-driven one on the road, maybe the driver of the normal car would do something that the computer in the self-driven one could not predict. In that case, the safety parameter may get breached. However, some prices have to be paid to make dreams into reality. Better driving etiquette and courtesy were needed before one could see driverless cars taking over the roads.
Volkswagen, the German based automobile giant expects first self driving cars on the market by 2019. Detroit based General Motors would be producing Autonomous cars to be deployed by 2020 or sooner. BMW will be launching iNext in 2021 which will be followed by fully autonomous Tesla by 2018, approved by 2021 and as per statistics revealed, driverless cars would be in use all over the world within the next 10 years.
Uber fleet has announced that their cars will be driverless by 2030. Expert members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have determined that driverless vehicles will be the most viable form of intelligent transportation. They estimate that up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040. The fact is, driverless cars will be the new kids on the block.
But it will be a hell of a job for the software developers to integrate driverless cars on Indian roads where there is hardly any traffic rule. Still, driverless cars will have the last laugh and the time is not so far away where human driven conventional cars become pieces of junk. Race drivers may definitely not like the idea of driverless cars because in a race it is the driver who has to manipulate and control the car and derive maximum pace and lap out of it. Besides, the thrill of manual driving is something you just can’t buy. So, which one do you prefer, manual or driverless car? As for me I even hate CVT and AMT cars not to mention driverless ones. Manual is the real drive for I really doubt that driverless cars would give you that rush of adrenaline just like a manual drive do.


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