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Are Driverless Cars Safe?

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cars stuck in traffic

The big question on everyone’s mind in the auto industry is: Are driverless cars safe?

The main selling point of driverless cars is that they are built to reduce human error. Of course, to imply that technology is beyond fault is preposterous. The best-case scenario these innovators are currently looking at is exchanging one mode of errors for another. Still, that’s not to say that driverless vehicles are worthless. The technology is quite impressive, but the main question to be asked is: Are driverless cars safe?


Are they driverless?

The technology behind driverless cars, while remarkable, doesn’t exactly guarantee a safe experience. Most of the focus around the technology so far has centered on a “false sense of security” pertaining to the autopilot controls. Consequently, if a driverless car still requires human intervention, how can it be referred to as being driverless in the first place?

cars in a tunnel going to a bridge

Will cars be truly driverless if they require at least some attention from the occupant?

Every car is an example of genius engineering, often crafted with high-end electronics to ensure the finest functionality. That said, often a car is only as good as the driver behind the wheel. When that person has far less involvement with driving the car, the complications start to mount up. There’s still a need for a fully attentive driver to be behind the wheel even during cruise control, so is there a risk of good drivers becoming overly reliant on the technology? In the end, it’s worth questioning whether shortcut technologies can really complement a focused driving experience.


Will they require tougher repairs?

For a driverless car to operate well, it’ll become a hybrid of sorts. The vehicle will be stuck between an identity of automated computer and functional vehicle. This means more specialist technology will be added to the mix, such as radars, data management systems, and laser based systems that identify potential obstacles for the car during transit. Put simply, it’s more computer tech now, and it’s something that not many mechanics are equipped to deal with.

Can current mechanics install intricate software updates or run complex diagnostics? Could a cyber attack be launched on a car? If there are any faults or inconsistencies in the vehicle’s performance, they’ll be harder to identify and fix. Instead of steam billowing out of the bonnet, a single digit in a line of code could be tampered with that renders everything useless. There is a chance any fixes will take more specialist knowledge, and the issues could potentially go unnoticed until it’s too late.

mechanic working on a car in body shop

Will mechanics be prepared for the tech updates that will surely come with driverless cars?


Lane centering

Driverless vehicles come with lane centering technology. Lane centering, or lane keeping assist, maintains the vehicles trajectory to be in the correct lane while cruise control has been activated. Distance measuring systems like lidar are used here, while other cameras are positioned at the bottom of the vehicle that read any road markings. The two then govern whether the vehicle is straying from its lane or is comfortably on course.

However, there have been widescale reports of a ‘ping pong’ effect, whereby many driverless vehicles keep drifting to each side of its respective lane instead of maintaining a central position. Of course, these driving habits have adverse effects on other road users. Cars that subtly maneuver too much are often thought to contain a drunk or dangerous driver, so obviously, this isn’t completely safe for all road users. In any event, that sense of unease isn’t ideal for anyone.

This is a collaborative article.