Cars: Does autonomous mean safe?

Driving home for Christmas (using L1/L2 autonomous driving)

I have been driving from skying today using my father’s car, I used ICC (Intelligent Cruise Control) and for the first time did I use Lane Assistant (have a look at test of this technology by eGear TV – VW Lane Assist (Passat GTE) – POV Test Drive). The tool is very practical and impressively accurate, yet during the 100 km part of my travel during which I have used Lane Assistant I felt a bit insecure. It might have been caused by a couple of different reasons: I woke up early then I skied for a couple of hours and I was just very sleepy, also the weather was quite bad – rainy and slippery, but most of all I did not trust the technology enough not to take control over the wheel when another car was to close.

My first time…

Before I have experienced “autonomy” of a car myself I would have said that we should definitely use autonomous cars, but after today’s drive I did not feel like I was willing to put the safety of myself and my passengers in hands of a bunch of LIDAR’s, cameras, sensors, computers and hyper-deeply developed maps.

Coffee, kids, call, navigation, sleep, argument, drugs, work, e-mail, hot-dog, speeding, alcohol VS 360 degrees

Yet, let’s just objectively look at it. Safety Regulators from the USA say that around 95% of road accidents are caused by human error. Those are very often a direct implication of eating, talking over the phone, looking back at one’s kids during travel, speeding, being high on alcohol or drugs and others listed above. Computer is not affected by those and unlike humans has 360 degree vision to oversee literally everything around itself.

Comparing apples and oranges

On the other hand –  If anyone is trying to compare how many accidents are caused by human-drivers and machine-drivers, it is at least uneven and might even be unfair. Human statistics are collected on much bigger scale and in all kinds of environments, roads and weather, while most of the information about the autonomous cars comes from a few Western States in America with great weather (here is one company from Finland that contradicts it, but it is hard to find another example like that) and is collected on a much smaller scale.

We fear unknown

Taking into consideration today’s drive and what I have read later, I am not really sure whether I trust autonomous cars enough yet, but so did many people when first autopilots were introduced to airplanes and today it is completely normal to trust the computer to control the flight nearly fully. The technology depends on great innovators, intelligent regulators, but most of all on the acceptance of society, we should help our future selves and trust that autonomous driving is the future of safer road transportation.


Sources of information and inspiration:

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One thought on “Cars: Does autonomous mean safe?

  1. Avatar Kogowska Aleksandra says:

    In my opinion when it comes to autonomous cars, we should fear more about their moral way of solving hard situations that seem unsolvable. When it comes to aspects such as trusting those systems, it is just a bit of trust from us, because everything is very safe and definitely safer then human brain. We just need to believe in them and give them a chance.

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