Volvo Wants to Know What You Think About Autonomous Cars – Automobile

Volvo plans to be the first mainstream automaker to test automated vehicles on public roads in 2017, and now it wants your opinion on autonomous cars.

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I would hope that pretty early they find a way to have random samples of people, rather than those who are associated in some way to the industry and that they get to ‘drive’ in random locations, not on safe tracks where everything is 100% predictable.

It’s interesting that so many manufacturers feel they are likely to have cars on the market in the next few years. I watch with interest. I suspect there will be certain routes where they can drive with ease.

However there are many situations where I think they will struggle.

For example they are developing technologies like Traffic Jam Assist, which if I have it correct means that if you are stuck in commuter traffic below a certain speed, i.e. a traffic jam, it will control steering to keep you in the lane, breaks and accelerator while you sit in the the traffic. An autopilot if you will, until traffic speeds up again.

This might be an example, like Lane Departure Warning systems which BMW first developed at least 10 years ago, which can increase safety.

However the results could be very interesting. Those drivers who already think it is safe to send text messages or play games on their mobiles today will be totally at ease and feel it is safe to do so when the car is in control. But what happens when people, tired of the traffic jam decide to create new lanes, switch without indicating until the last minute while motorcycles ride on either side? What happens when an emergency vehicle is trying to get past?You know, all the things you see on the way to work every day.

Anyway, I would love to have a ride in an autonomous car in certain conditions, as long as its not at my insurance risk. I’d like to drive in New Zealand at dusk in winter where the ambient light is right in your eyes, perhaps with a little sun shower to go with it. In fog on a classic narrow windy road, or on a motorway after it has rained, at dusk when its hard to see the road markings, or onĀ  the way to the mountain driving through Waikato pea soup (fog) at 5 in the morning.

There are times when its not easy to be a human driver with years of experience, even when everyone is driving with respect for each other. Add in a couple of boy racers and it gets more interesting.

The thing is these vehicles need to be able to drive anywhere. No one is going to by a car that you can only use on certain routes. I’ve seen the data from mapping cars and I’m sure that under perfect conditions the technology in these autonomous cars will not skip a beat. But in conditions when $250,000 technology in a specialized mapping car (with much higher spec laser, video, Infrared, Ultrasound, inertia sensors and accelerometers GPS and other technologies can’t read speed restriction signs, temporary traffic warning signs, can’t see the lane or curb side markings, or recognize hazards, what can we expect from a car designed to retail for 20% of that cost?

The positive is will we have some great new safety and driver assist features in ordinary cars which will reduce the number of crashes and the severity of the consequences when they do happen.They include Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping, Predictive Crash Avoidance

I have no doubt that we will see platooning in the freight industry in some regions, particularly where there are many vehicles of the same brand (a strong reason for some of the brands to not over collaborate and gain a competitive edge) and dedicated lanes.

We are in for some changes. Perhaps one of the biggest will be urban population growth. I hope that public transport modes will increase in volume, efficiency, features, accessibility and convenience, because ultimately if I was to spend a truck load of money on a car that drives itself and only gets used 5% of the time, I might be better off not having one at all, or perhaps like some of my friends in other countries who have a little car or motorcycle for fun trips to the country on weekends and holidays. But then I think to people I know who have time share ownership of yachts where the can have the fun and walk away, leaving someone else to take care of maintenance, insurance, registration and all the other stuff, a nice clean rental vehicle or pool vehicle might be the go. Why own a car at all?

See on Scoop.itLocation Is Everywhere

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
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