Self-Driving Cars - Road to The Future?

As autonomous vehicle technology develops, many fleet operators of all forms are starting to look ahead to see how this technology can help enhance safety and develop their companies in the future. In the latest Brake blog, Ian Beevis looks at how that is developing in the taxi industry and how safe it could be.

We live in a progressing and developing society, with technology always making leaps and bounds on a regular basis, it comes as no surprise that motor vehicles have eventually progressed to be self-driving, therefore reducing human input to almost zero.

In line with this the taxi firm Uber has begun implementing these self-driving cars in their fleet of vehicles, but what does this mean for the future of travel in the future?

What is the end goal?

First of all, it’s important to remember that the technology is still in the early stages of its development, and is thus still reliant on human input in places. As cars can’t be designed to run without the need for advanced equipment, there hasn’t been a complete mastery of the self-driving technology yet. However, the eventual goal of Uber as a company is to introduce fully automated vehicles, wherein someone just needs to program in the location they want to go to, and the car will drive them there, without the necessity of any input from a real person.

Are There Safety Concerns When Using a Self-Driving Car?

This new technology will, of course, present a fair share of detrimental scenarios, along with it’s set of advantages. The immediate issues will be about safety. A self-driving car, however well designed, is still a highly sophisticated piece of technology. This presents a safety issue because technology is prone to sudden and inexplicable failures, which is extremely dangerous in a busy place like a city centre.

Furthermore, all technology has the potential to be hacked and the control system overridden, which allows for a new level of cybernetic terrorism. Understandably, these are all concerns that will alarm certain individuals, all of whom will worry for their safety in a vehicle. And while it can be argued that a human being is also fallible and prone to sudden incapacitation, the likelihood is reduced. As well as this, it’s possible for the person in the passenger seat to take the wheel in the event of an emergency, and steer the car to safety. If there’s no such steering wheel in a self-driving car because it’s surplus to requirement, there’s little to be done in the event of a problem.

What Does This Mean for the Taxi Driver Population?

Another problem is going to be the number of taxi drivers who could find themselves out of a job if the self-driving cars become a mainstream feature. If someone is reliant upon their job to feed a family or to support themselves, they may suddenly find themselves in less in desirable circumstances with the difficulty of seeking alternative employment.

Overall, the end goal for a company like Uber is to have a range of self-driving vehicles, but it is potentially a worrying one. Drivers could well be made redundant, and with advancing technology, there are also developing disruptions to it. There’s never been a good replacement for the eyes and reflexes of a skilled driver, and it’s highly possible there never will be. But with a progression in the things machines can do for us, perhaps there will be a time when a car can drive you to your destination safely and reliably, without the worry for any more possible situations than one would encounter driving normally.

Ian Beevis is a spokesperson for the green auto website Clean Green Cars. He provides his take and insight into the green auto industry and has over 5 years' experience writing about the market.