Tuesday 20 March 2018

Why cars without drivers are safer and can save billions a year – study

Mercedes-Benz S 500 Intelligent drive
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Intelligent drive
Mercedes-Benz S 500 Intelligent drive

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

CARS without 'human' drivers will be much safer – and save thousands of lives and a fortune in repairs and insurance bills.

Technologies already exist to drive cars without a human hand on the wheel. But there are substantial logistical, legal, privacy and financial obstacles (such vehicles can cost €80,000).

According to a major report by a group of leading scientists, the effort will be well worth it.

They argue, in a major study on autonomous vehicles (AVs), that as technology does not drink-drive, tailgate, fall asleep or take risks, such cars would be far safer.

The experts at the Eno Centre for Transportation in New York, say tens of thousands of deaths could be avoided and savings worth hundred of billions of dollars could accrue from a massive drop in crashes and accidents.

However, they admit: "While many driving situations are relatively easy for an autonomous vehicle to handle, designing a system that can perform safely in nearly every situation is challenging."

On the bright side, self-drive cars would reduce congestion – and you'd get more work done.


Instead of having to drive, 'former drivers' could convert the passenger seat so they could work safely on laptops, or eat snacks, watch movies – let's leave it at that for now.

There is no doubt, though, that the big questions around it all have yet to be truly tackled.

The report recognises that: "Who should own or control the vehicle's data? What types of data will be stored? With whom will these data sets be shared? In what ways will such data be made available? And, for what ends will they be used?"

It says that crash data – yes there will still be mishaps – will be owned or made available to technology suppliers. That is because "they will likely be responsible for damages in the event of a crash."

But: "If a human is driving a vehicle with autonomous capabilities when the crash occurs . . . privacy concerns arise. No one wants his/her vehicle's data recorder being used against them in court, though this is merely an extension of an existing issue."

Cars could be programmed to pick up passengers, park themselves and could 'platoon' – they drive close together but keep a certain distance meaning there would be less time and fuel wasted in futile overtaking, and time-wasting in stop-and-go traffic congestion.

The report cites US government research which claims drivers are at fault in more than 90pc of crashes.

Drink, drugs, tiredness or distraction are involved in more than 40pc of US accidents, it says. Speeding, aggressive drivers and inexperience also contribute.

The thing is, from my personal experience, we already have a lot of the technology for a 'driverless' car. I have driven vehicles here and abroad with:

* Adaptive cruise control – (keeps you a pre-determined distance from car in front)

* Lane departure systems – they warn that you are drifting. Some will automatically steer the car back.

* Collision avoidance systems – they brake to prevent collisions.

* Parking assist systems – they are in several cars now.

Google's self-driving cars have clocked nearly half-a-million miles on California public roads.

The Mercedes S-Class, unveiled here yesterday, can 'auto pilot' in heavy traffic at speeds of up to 60kmh.

Back in August a Mercedes S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle drove itself over 100 kilometres from Mannheim to Pforzheim in all sorts of traffic conditions.

So we are much nearer the day than maybe we think.

Irish Independent

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