Will driverless cars really be safe? That’s the question many people have on their minds as multiple road trials now under way make it seem inevitable that driverless cars will soon become common on our highways. We will soon be sharing the road with vehicles that are controlled by computer programming, GPS and elaborate algorithms. Autonomous vehicles will make decisions on their own. But is this technology really that safe? Trails that are now under way across the country hope to prove how safe this really is and work out any kinks that may be found along the way.
According to the manufacturers of driverless vehicles they will have almost superhuman abilities recognizing the world around them. These vehicles are loaded with sensors and gather tons of data about their environment. All this is designed to replicate the way human drivers handle road conditions under all circumstances.
Human drivers will be replaced by cameras, radars, lasers and ultrasonic sensors along with GPS which will replicate the eye’s ears and directional sense of a person driving a car. This data must then be fed into a brain that will be making the important decisions.
Most of these new vehicles have a brain which consists of an integrated computer system about the size of a license plate. The computer brain uses machine learning to teach itself about the driving environment and to recognize the ever-changing conditions that exist there. Machine learning is what allows driverless cars to amass a great deal of knowledge about all the possible threats that can arise and what to do about them.
But is all this really that safe? According to the manufacturers it’s a matter of how many hours and miles of real driving under real world conditions the cars are exposed to that makes them ever safer.
Ultimately, there will be only one way to know for sure and that’s by trial and error. There will be a learning curve for sure. Let’s hope that driverless cars can learn to be safe quickly.