As Google leads the initiative on the development of self driving cars, we have a lot of opportunities to learn about what it takes to teach a computer how to drive. According to a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, self-driving cars have so far done a better job staying out of car crashes and minimizing their consequences compared to human-driven cars.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re free of accidents. Google realized during its self-driving car experiment that the biggest danger to a self-driving car would be the unpredictable and sometimes neglectful nature of human drivers.
The company’s experiment has given it the chance to learn some valuable lessons in how to drive safely, including some that humans could benefit from too. Here are four driving lessons we can learn from self-driving cars.
Look beyond the car in front of you
Google’s car uses sensors to identify and anticipate objects in the distance in order to take them into account. This enables it to avoid hitting obstacles that could catch it by surprise.
Human drivers lack some of the sensors Google’s self-driving car boasts, but we can instead rely on vigilance to maintain awareness of where others are as they move around you, even if they’re not immediately in front of you.
It’s also critical to look left and right, not just follow the directives right in front of you, before driving. For example, rather than merely using a red or green light to identify if you should go, be sure to also consider whether any pedestrians look like they’re planning on crossing. They often have right of way and you don’t want to break suddenly to avoid hitting someone that you neglected to take into account because it wasn’t a car in front of you.
Anticipate the actions of other drivers
It is obviously impossible to perfectly guess what drivers around you are planning on doing, but an educated guess is often helpful on the road.
For example, if a car in front of you is slowing down and you know an intersection or street is coming up, consider the possibility that they are going to turn, and move out of the away or slow down yourself to avoid rear-ending them.
It’s also important to consider what other drives may not realize. A car may be indicating that they’ll turn with a turn signal, but if they’ve had the signal on for a long minute without moving they may have forgotten it was turned on at all.
Other drivers won’t follow the rules perfectly, and it’s important to try to accommodate for human intention and human error.
Learn the roads around you
Your usual route to work may be familiar, but it turns out that familiarity may encourage you to tune out and put yourself and other drivers at risk.
Rather than sticking to your same routine every single day, consider alternate routes that are available to you. You can check a map of local accident hotspots to find areas to avoid. These give you the option of varying your travel, but it also allows you to adjust your route in anticipation of events such as traffic jams or rush hours.
Learning alternative routes allows you to calculate for yourself new options on the go and helps you get out of ruts, bumper to bumper traffic and other stressful situations that can lead to an accident.
Don’t take risks on the road
Google’s self-driving cars have garnered some complaints that they drive too carefully, making it slow and overly cautious. However, the car’s decreased accident statistics indicate that it probably know best how to minimize the impact of a car accident, making it an excellent driver for others to model themselves after.
That means that taking extra precautions, anticipating the actions of others, avoiding sudden turns, speeding up or slowing down quickly and using non-aggressive drying is objectively the best choice for drivers to protect themselves. Although it won’t take you where you need to go as quickly, it will get you there safely, which is infinitely more important.
Self driving cars are likely the future of cars, but in the meantime, humans will continue to be behind the wheel, and while we remain in the driver’s seat, we would do well to learn from our future drivers how to keep ourselves safe.
Featured photo credit: Gordon Tarpley via flic.kr