There has been a lot of talk about autopilot cars in the past years, and a lot of confusion. This advancement in technology has jump-started the process of using robots to replace humans for work, and the same technique has been applied to driving as well.
But, what exactly are autopilot cars? What do they do? What should we know? To shed a bit of light on the topic, we decided to list five things you could have missed since the release of Tesla’s first autopilot car in October 2014.
1. Autopilot vs. Autonomous
Autopilot cars, contrary to popular belief, are not autonomous cars. Autonomous cars would mean you can give your car the name of a location, press a button, and let it drive you there without you having to lift a finger in the process. You would arrive at your destination without having to focus on the road or your driving whatsoever.
Autopilot cars on the other hand, like the Tesla, can’t do that yet. Autopilot cars can adjust their speed depending on the cars that are around them, search for parking spaces, self-park, and can even change lanes and drive for long distances alone, but they are not fully autonomous.
2. Future Projects
Although autopilot cars are already coming into the market, they are still far from perfect. It’s true that they have some abilities that normal cars do not, but saying they are without any flaws would be a mistake. Tesla’s autopilot cars, even though released, are considered “public” betas and require a lot of caution. Tesla autopilot failures have at times also posed questions of the future of autonomous cars, which is certainly a big problem for the future of the technology.
This said, Tesla Motors’ co-founder, CEO, and product architect, Elon Musk, still advises that the driver is ready to take control of the vehicle by having his or her hands ready to take over the wheel should something go wrong. Fully autonomous cars should come into existence in about three years, but getting permission for official use could take several more.
3. Safer Roads
If more autopilot cars are put onto roads, it is estimated that the streets will be much safer. How? Most accidents are caused by the driver. Whether it is by speeding, drunk-driving, drug use, hazardous or selfish driving, or an overall lack of experience. A car on autopilot cannot commit to the same faults as a human driver can. The only time autopilot cars could put the driver in danger would be if the driver themselves interfere, or if the car was poorly produced with insufficient sensory systems. It is estimated that if up to 85-90% of cars on the roads today were changed to autopilot cars, 4.2 billion accidents would be avoided.
4. Safety Alerts
As of September 2016, Tesla decided to implement another feature into their autopilot cars to increase safety. The feature is a pretty big and intriguing update that won’t let the driver be completely off-guard, even during autopilot. On certain occasions, the car may demand for you to place your hands on the wheel and if you refuse, well, you will have to drive home on your own because the autopilot will lock you out and won’t let you turn it back on until the drive is over.
This is demonstrated through three strikes. The car lets out three beeping sounds and if the driver still doesn’t obey, the autopilot slows the car down and disables itself for the remainder of the trip.
5. Increased Productivity
It is estimated that an average person spends about 200 hours commuting to work every year. The amount of time you spend on your commute could easily be used to your advantage, especially if you put a car on autopilot. You can take out your laptop and work on a project or write a letter or an e-mail, and be productive while you commute. You don’t need to keep your attention on the road unless the car requests you to, so you can even make a few quick work calls.
Either way, a lot of time can be saved and used to doing more productive things while you commute, and you could do those things safely and without any worries. Having your commute to work be a breeze would make driving pleasant for even the most technology-resistant people.
With all of this said, it is easy to see why autopilot cars are so attractive to the automotive industry. They would encourage safer roads, increase productivity, save time, and allow for a more relaxed lifestyle, making commuting less of a chore in this modern society.
Featured photo credit: Wikipedia via upload.wikimedia.org
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