How safe are autonomous vehicles?

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How safe can autonomous vehicles be? Is the misconception of driverless cars far from reality?

Autonomous cars work in a way that they have a built-in technology that allows them to navigate and be aware of their environment without the need of a human driver. They have built in GPS, internal navigation system sensors; including a laser rangefinder, video and radar.

Once a journey has been inputted into the car the journey is dissected into commands which are fed into devices called actuators. Actuators control the steering, breaking and throttle. The vehicle’s internal map can predict static locations of buildings, traffic lights, road signs and moving objects such as pedestrians and other cars on the road.

Although manufacturers can successfully make autonomous cars and understand how they work, there are still technological barriers they need to overcome. GPS can sometimes be unreliable and the vision systems are limited when it comes to understanding situations on the road, such as a crash. Weather also comes into play as it can affect the ability to identify or track moving objects.

Along with technological issues comes the question of how safe driverless cars may be.

In 2016, Tesla’s test driver Joshua Brown was the first person to die in a driverless car. Tesla released a statement that the car was in its “public beta phase”, meaning the software in the car was being stress tested by members of the public so that bugs can be detected and fixed.

As well as this, as cars become more high-tech they become more vulnerable to hacking. Built in extra computers and internet connectivity within cars increase the vulnerability of hacking, especially within driverless cars.

Driverless cars have built in sensors, allowing them to find their way as well as detect objects on the road as a human would. The idea that driverless cars offer no safety or aren’t as safe as human driven cars is something widely spoken about. However, once autonomous vehicles become more readily available for the public, road safety should improve as there will be no accounts for alcoholism; one of the major threats amongst the roads


By Summer Simmons

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