HONK. HONK. Sounds like rush hour, doesn’t it? But what if you could use that extra time spent in traffic during work or school commutes to eat breakfast or get in some last-minute studying? With the rise of autonomous cars and the anticipated reduction of traffic congestion, it’s almost a reality.

Lately, car manufacturers have been introducing a greater number of advanced semi-autonomous capabilities in their fleet of vehicles. It is evident that the race to become industry leaders by introducing fully autonomous vehicles has increased the number of manufacturers competing. In this race, some familiar players are Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Google, and Uber. Although it will still take years for fully autonomous vehicles to be ready for consumers to purchase, companies are taking a step-by-step approach to introduce more features while continually gaining consumer acceptance.

Some of the current technology that has been released and used in the auto market includes back-up cameras, auto parking, radar sensors (to spot nearby and distant traffic), and ultrasonic sensors (for lane changing). Although it might be hard at first to become acquainted with vehicle features such as these, there are more and more individuals who are either looking for or are purchasing vehicles with driving assistant technology equipped in their cars.

Would introducing autonomous vehicles be good for us?

Absolutely, if you’re willing to invest in life insurance. To be an early adopter of any technology, you have to be willing to trade something off, right? For autonomous cars today, the reality is that the technology hasn’t been proven to ensure total safety for passengers. However, the excitement for this revolutionizing and disruptive technology is prone to continue upward as its capabilities are enhancing at rapid rates. As autonomous vehicles make their way onto our roads, it wouldn’t be surprising to find your next taxi driver to be Apple’s Siri telling you to hop in.

According to a Harvard Business Review article on driverless cars, with research conducted by Rocky Mountain Institute, there are some threats to consider for a possible world filled with autonomous cars.

Some of the threats examined include:

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  • Risk of cyber-attacks from heavy reliance on operating with a digital information backbone;
  • The public may not tolerate the failures and ethical dilemmas that these early models have posed in society; and
  • Car lovers may resist driverless technology and be skeptical of its overall efficiency and cost savings.

On the plus side, who wouldn’t want an economy that is more productive, with less traffic accidents and a reduction in global warming? However, a sudden introduction of fully autonomous vehicles might be difficult to implement, let alone receive consumer and public support. Therefore, automakers should continually take advantage of experimenting autonomous vehicles in different cities to find workable solutions to potential problems before scaling it out.

In the next five years, will we see driverless cars on the road?

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It’s hard to say, but fully autonomous cars for consumers to purchase may not be possible for another 10 or 15 years because it’s not just a matter of smarter cars, but also the need for better infrastructure to support this technology. Many factors need to be addressed, such as the need to integrate a city’s real time maps to better predict routes, understand speed limits, and to be able to predict the actions of moving objects close by. Since roads are shared, autonomous car manufacturers can’t just think about your safety, but need to look at the larger picture and consider everything else that comes with sharing the road with you.

Although there are major risk factors to consider when implementing autonomous vehicles in our communities, the time is right for taking the next step, by introducing advanced features, before eventually making the jump to fully-automated vehicles. As the Morgan Stanley Blue Paper suggests, with the emergence of autonomous cars, we will likely see promising economic benefits from the social gains that will come from introducing them. This certainly includes a significant reduction in traffic congestion, meaning more time to eat your morning breakfast, or spend the extra time studying.

So, are we there yet? 

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We would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about autonomous cars and if the world is ready for them! Leave a comment below.

#Beedie4BTM #TechMgmt #DriverlessFuture #ITAC

This article is a submission for the “Blog Competition” of the National BTM (Business Technology Management) Student Competition between Schools across Canada, represented by teams of their top 4th year BTM students. The Information Technology Association of Canada is pleased to partner with IT World Canada to host this competition, with the Blog Competition Prize generously being Sponsored by FDM Group. Learn more about the National BTM Student Competition at the IT World Canada Competition Hub: http://itworldcanada.com/client/ITAC-BTM/.

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  • Jeevan Takhar

    Interesting article! However, I am skeptical that we will ever see a 100% autonomous vehicles. Due to the fact that companies may be unwilling to ever accept complete liability for their autopilot software. You should look into Vehicle to Vehicle communication, and how it could address some of the safety concerns you guys mentioned in the article.

  • Thuyvy Dotran

    I think this will come fast! Uber, Google, Tesla…, those big players really take action. I don’t think it will be Full Autonomous but it will achieve some significant degree in the next 5 years. Personally, I am neutral to this idea. I enjoy driving, so I don’t want this to take away this joy :D. however, this can benefit some people, so I am open to this.

  • Luann Wong

    I think autonomous cars are definitely on their way to becoming more commonplace! However, I hope that the “drivers” in the car will still learn how to drive and park properly, instead of relying on technology. Even with the cars now with the rear video cameras, I feel like people will slowly forget how to park without it… Interested to see what types of regulations and habits will come out as a result of self-driving cars!

  • William Sung

    I recommend readers to watch the movie “Minority Report” cast by Tom Cruise. In the movie, there are many futuristic features including autonomous cars which I feel that the scenes are very close to real future. Autonomous cars will reduce accident rates which are primary caused by human errors. Even though it does take out the fun of driving to many people, still, I think it’s just an inevitable trend that are going to happen.