Many people are wondering, “Are self-driving cars the future?” While a lot of development still needs to go into automated vehicles before they’re ready for mainstream use, it’s hard to see a future without them. Imagine a world where you no longer have to worry about drunk drivers or people falling asleep at the wheel, or where disabled people can rely on their own car to get them where they want to go. You could even sit back and relax with your favorite online casino games while your car drives you back home from work at the end of the day.
Discover more about how self-driving vehicles work, the role self-driving vehicles might play in the future, as well as the pros and cons of this new technology on private and public transportation.
How Do Self-Driving Vehicles Work?
If you’ve ever wondered how a self-driving vehicle works, it’s simple to explain the basics. The self-driving vehicle, whether a car or bus, or any other mode of transport, has special sensors, such as radar and GPS, situated on and under its structure. These sensors gather information about the vehicle’s surroundings. This information is then fed into an artificial intelligence specifically designed to understand the rules of the road — in other words, an AI driver. This AI driver will adjust the speed and direction of the vehicle, depending on the information that it’s getting from the sensors, in order to keep you safe while driving you to your destination.
While there are various challenges that affect a self-driving vehicle’s ability to get people from one place to another, there are increasing numbers of automated vehicles on the road. This is why there’s an incredible interest in using these vehicles for public transport.
The Role of Self-Driving Vehicles in Public Transit
For many years, the focus has been specifically on self-driving cars and their impact on private individuals, as well as the role they could play for companies such as Uber and Lyft. That said, self-driving vehicles, such as buses, shuttles, or pods, could also have a big impact on public transport and moving around large groups, small groups, or even individual people.
Here’s a quick look at each of these vehicles and their potential benefits for public transit.
Self-driving pods range in size from being slightly larger than a wheelchair to large enough for four people to sit comfortably. These vehicles will handle everything from helping those with a disability inside buildings, to transporting people around parks and other public spaces, and transporting people over longer distances.
The smaller pods are easily distinguishable from cars due to their appearance and functionality, but what about the larger ones?
While it may be tempting to call these larger pods cars, many of them differ dramatically in design. Yes, they have four wheels and an exterior that may appear car-like, but the interior is quite a shift away from a traditional car design. For a start, some of the concepts that have been displayed, such as the Volkswagen Group’s GEN.TRAVEL, don’t have a steering wheel. Other differences include the much larger seats that can convert into beds, or even an interior with two pairs of seats facing each other and a table in the middle. This would allow someone to sleep or even have a meeting while the pod drives you to your destination.
Ultimately, these new pods could fill a much-needed gap in various parts of society.
Many companies around the world are focused on producing a range of self-driving cars. From sedans such as the Tesla Model S, to SUVs like the Jaguar I-PACE used by Waymo, there is a huge range of electric self-driving cars that are being released to cater to the tastes of drivers all around the world.
While there’s obviously much interest from the wealthy in personally owning a self-driving car (such as these wealthy soccer players who own expensive cars) to get them from place to place, even regular people who can’t afford private jets and mansions may soon be able to enjoy the benefits of self-driving cars. This is because transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft see a future in which you are able to easily request an automated car, any time of day or night, to get you to your destination. Whether you’re heading home after a late night with your friends, or need to get to the airport for an early flight, you could request a self-driving car without being too concerned about the driver’s state of mind.
This reality may not be far off. Lyft offered self-driving cars in 2022, and Uber partnered with Alphabet’s Waymo to bring driverless rides to app users in 2023. It’s only a matter of time before these driverless cars become the norm for these transportation companies.
Self-Driving Shuttles and Buses
Self-driving shuttles and buses will play an important role in areas where larger groups of people need transport. While these vehicles may not get quite the same amount of attention in the U.S. where car ownership is extremely popular, countries in Europe and Asia are already testing these vehicles out extensively. China’s first self-driving bus actually hit the roads in 2015, and today some Chinese cities, such as Chongqing, offer self-driving bus services. In 2022, Seoul began experimenting with driverless buses from 42dot, a start-up company that has partnered with Hyundai Motors. In 2023, Scotland launched a self-driving bus network made up of five buses in Edinburgh.
Again, much like other self-driving vehicles, it would seem to be only a matter of time before it’s normal to see buses on their own transporting passengers around.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Vehicles
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of self-driving vehicles and the impact they could have on public transit and commuters:
- Improve road safety due to better decision-making and driver fatigue no longer being an issue.
- Be more environmentally friendly, not only because the majority are electric, but also by simply driving more efficiently.
- Help reduce various costs, such as traffic fines and car and medical insurance fees, since accidents could become less common.
- Improve traffic flow, with self-driving vehicles optimizing their driving and routes.
- Reduce the time spent on the road due to increased vehicle speed.
- Allow more people to do other things during the commute since they won’t be driving, whether that’s work, reading a book, or watching their favorite series.
- More accessible to those who can’t drive.
- May increase the risk of an accident if the driving software is faced with an incident it doesn’t know how to handle.
- If self-driving cars and other vehicles are allowed to travel faster than people, it could result in more deadly accidents.
- It will affect various industries that employ human drivers.
A World With Driverless Vehicles Is More Than Science Fiction
While it may be many years, or even decades, before self-driving vehicles make their way into mainstream private and public transport systems, there can be no doubt that their potential to change society is enormous and that companies are working around the clock to make these vehicles a reality.
Science fiction authors may have gotten it wrong about flying cars, but with more and more driverless vehicles appearing on our roads, a world in which you no longer have to drive may well be possible in your lifetime — just like smartwatches could be the way to gamble in the future.
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