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Three important reasons why society needs to transition to driverless and electric vehicles…

Photo credit: Clagmaster

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” This iconic utterance was coined by Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent office in 1899, (Crouch, D, 2011). [7] It would be painfully interesting to see the internet react to this exact statement if said in the digital age we live in today. With the advancement of cryptocurrency, digital media, voice AI and of course electric vehicles, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of inventions and development slowing down soon.

The progressive development and use of electricity in society has encouraged the rebirth of products and services everywhere. The toothbrush, blanket, watch, lights, ovens, and now, vehicles have all be rejuvenated with the addition of electricity. Society is always in constant demand for increased efficiency in everything we do because we all value one thing higher than anything else, time. With more time comes more opportunity to seize, and electricity has certainly, so far, helped us achieve more. So, is it now time to bring autonomous electric vehicles into market? Or are we still unconvinced, as a society, to have autonomous vehicles driving us around town?

Safety

Vehicle safety is an overwhelming matter that public must digest, especially when news stories and social media highlight the errors and real-life accidents involving these vehicles. The Joshua Brown Tesla Autopilot incident was covered by numerous news and social media outlets back in early May 2016. The spread of this tragic story really encouraged consumers to second guess the trust they put into this new industry. The accident occurred in Florida, where the driver (Joshua Brown), put his Tesla Model S into Tesla’s autopilot mode, when complications with the car’s sensors systems unfortunately resulted in fatal impact with a crossing tractor-trailer.

 

Tesla made a very clear apology to Joshua Brown’s family & friends and also to the Vehicle industry and community. The apology outlined a very good point. This was Tesla’s first autopilot accident in 130 million miles of driving. As tragic and unwanted as the accident was, this in comparison to accidents involving all vehicles in the US proves a huge dissimilarity. Fatal accidents caused by fuel-based vehicles occur every 94 miles in the US, which is extremely high when put against Tesla’s autopilot accident rate of 1 in the last 130 million miles of driving. [1]

 

The statistical likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident with driverless vehicles is substantially low compared to today’s common vehicles. This, as an overall headline, heavily encourages the adoption of driverless vehicles, and with the everlasting improvement into scenario based testing and awareness, AI city commuting, could be one of the best and most needed advancements in enhancing the quality of human life.

Space

Finding a parking space is one of the biggest time wasting factors in a driver’s life. Not only is there consistent limited spaces, especially within densely populated cities, but there is also a lack of room within said space, which causes close contact parking with other drivers and inefficient parking areas. In addition, the exceeding number of vehicle commuters has caused a rise in overall yearly road congestion.

 

Multi story parking spaces and the expansion of road systems have most certainly improved transport links and space for drivers. However, there is not an unlimited amount of land. We as a society cannot keep tearing down bits of our cities or land in order to create more networks, because eventually there will be no more space and more importantly a lot of urban environment does not have this capacity. Doing this means city expense is increased, habitats become more dense and public finance begins to wear thin.

 

The space in which a cluster of driverless vehicles and road links will use is considerably more compact and efficient, each vehicle picking up and dropping off passengers consistently, never needing to find space to park within the city. This already saves considerable time on the road and reduces congestion in traffic. With a fully synced up collection of AI driverless vehicles, the maneuvering and positioning of vehicles would without a doubt benefit city efficiency and space.

Time

In the 19th century, the most popular form of residential transport was the horse-drawn carriage, averaging speed at around 4-5mph (7kmh av.). Nowadays we have cars than can regularly exceed that speed by 25 time the amount. Yet the average US commuter will spend on average 42 hours in traffic per year, as well as losing around $1,400 worth of gas. [5] Today we match the speeds of 19th century transport everyday in commuting. Today’s overuse of individual commuting has certainly increased individual personal stress and fossil fuel consumption but more importantly has encouraged the huge loss of human potential. It is also estimated that around 30% of urban city traffic waiting time is caused due to other drivers looking for a parking space. [4]

 

If a city was serviced with AI self driving vehicles there would be a heap of benefits to passengers, residents and also air pollution. The biggest benefit being the new time available for commuters to catch up on emails, make a skype call, eat and drink or to even unwind whilst on route to the next meeting. The technology and algorithms used to systematically navigate all the AI vehicles around the city infrastructure would mean a severe reduction in traffic jams, wasteful gas emissions road accidents and an increase in commuting efficiency.

Other thoughts…

Safety, time and space are just 3 factors which can be vastly improved upon. Benefits of driverless and electric vehicles also mean less air pollution and a greener environment and a lower dependence on fossil fuels. It opens up to a more technologically advancing world with  more educational focus within engineering, science and efficient systems. The thought of tomorrow bringing us hover cars could soon be a reality and the fact that ‘Airbus’ have began testing auto-piloting taxis to the sky is incredible. [2] Hover cars are now no longer a science fiction cliche, but instead, are now business investments.

Fathoming a city built around driverless transport is in some ways incomprehensible, however for a city to advance and for us to grow as a species, these technological steps forward are vital.

Questions to ponder regarding driverless technology;

  • How many people would trust a driverless vehicle?
  • Will licenses be required in the age of driverless transport?
  • Could we all afford to use driverless technology?

By Dan Jordan

 

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Article References;

[1]

Joshua Brown Tesla Autopilot Death

Danny Yadron and Dan Tynan, Fri 1 July 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/30/tesla-autopilot-death-self-driving-car-elon-musk

 

[2] Airbus’ self-piloted air taxi takes to the skies

Natashah Hitti, 2 February 2018

https://www.dezeen.com/2018/02/02/airbus-self-piloted-vahana-air-taxi-takes-completes-first-test-flight/

 

[3]

The driverless car revolution isn’t just about technology – it’s about society too

Jackie Ashley, Sun 1 Jan 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/01/driverless-cars-boon-bane-coming-down-fast-lane

 

[4]

What a driverless world could look like

Wanis Kabbaj, 15th November 2016

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlLFK8oSNEM

 

[5]

Here’s how much time and money you waste sitting in traffic a year

Jacqui Frank, Feb. 23, 2017
http://uk.businessinsider.com/time-money-spent-traffic-per-year-us-cities-new-york-los-angeles-san-francisco-atlanta-2017-2

 

[6]

What is the average speed of a horse-drawn carriage?

Denis Havlik, Ph.D in experimental Physics. July 17, 2016

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-speed-of-a-horse-drawn-carriage  

 

[7]

Tracing the Quote: Everything that can be Invented has been Invented

Dennis Crouch, 6th January 2011

https://patentlyo.com/patent/2011/01/tracing-the-quote-everything-that-can-be-invented-has-been-invented.html

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