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Driverless cars and the impact they may have

Updated on November 19, 2018
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In Asia since early 1996, Wayne taught in local schools, universities and language schools in South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and China.

Home Jeeves

The idea of the self-driving car has been around for some time, but only now is it a reality. Only now does the very real possibility exist that you may be able to sit in the family car while a computer program drives you to work, home from work, out to dinner, or even chauffeurs you on your first date.

Who is behind the car?

Google, Audi, Jaguar, General Motors, Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo, Rinspeed, Bristol robotics lab at the University of Bristol, Axa Insurance, Ford, IBM and Mercedes. Prototypes are being built, designed, tested and road-tested around the world. The testing is happening on tracks, on city streets, in government-supported cross-country programs in the UK and on Germany's Autobahn.

There's a new player in the game. Chris Urmson of Aurora Innovation. There will be more additions as the technology improves, and the public's appetite and perceived need for the technology grows.

Tesla and Bosch


Change is the only constant in the universe Heraclitus
Change is the only constant in the universe Heraclitus

More is coming

Right now the Google Driver car looks like the mobile version of Google Glass, something only true geeks would be comfortable around. That will change.

What will these cars eventually look like?

Concept cars have been around for a very long time. The iconic Batmobile of the '60s was a reworking of the 1955 Lincoln Ford Futura. What we marveled at in Popular Mechanics once a year now pops up in a Google or Yahoo search daily. Some of the concepts are weird and downright ugly. Some of the ideas are impractical. A few of the concept cars look like they could take to the roads today.

Mercedes F 015

What Driverless tech looks like now

Are you Geek enough for Google?
Are you Geek enough for Google? | Source

What are the benefits?


Imagine your car waiting for you in the morning, or after you go shopping or after a few drinks with dinner. You hop into the car and the pre-programmed directions or a voice command takes you home. No time to pick up the children from school? Need to pick up someone at the airport ... just send the car.

Increased mobility

If you can't drive, or there is only one driver in the family you are limited. The driver has to be available. The teenagers want to go to the mall. There's shopping to be done. You'd love to catch a movie after work, but Grandma has her Muay Thai lesson. A driverless car changes the mobility dynamic. It offers everyone a chance to get around, whether that's to socialize with friends, work, date or just go for a drive.


A memo from Germany's traffic ministry " to create a network in which traffic jams and pollution can be reduced, while road safety will be increased. " In order to facilitate these tests the Autobahn has been opened for driverless cars.

Accidents occur every day and they kill, maim and destroy property. Accidents don't just happen. People make mistakes. People take chances. Inexperienced drivers behind the wheel. Aggressive drivers. foolish pedestrians, distractions, exhaustion, drugs(legal or illegal) and alcohol can separately and together end or irrevocably alter lives.

Current realities of life on the road

  • There were more than 5.5 million car accidents last year in the United States. Nearly 31,000 were fatal, and more than 2 million people were injured.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and teenagers.
  • At any given moment, 812,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a handheld cell phone in the U.S.
  • An average of four children ages 14 and under are killed every day in auto accidents. Nearly 500 are injured daily.
  • While statistics continue to improve, 32 percent of fatal accidents involved alcohol-impaired drivers.

A driverless car does not get tired. It doesn't drive while intoxicated or medicated. It doesn't make snap decisions to stop, or succumb to road rage. In short, driverless cars will save lives and make our roads, streets and neighborhoods saver. It may be possible to program cars not to allow loaded firearms, which could put a real crimp in carjacking, drive by shootings and bank robberies.

Sebastian Thrun: Google's driverless car

Driverless or hopeless?

Is driving yourself something you could give up?

See results

A degradation of skills

Will people lose the ability to drive independently, or just never learn? The possibility is yes. Although, with proper planning the car could be used to train drivers, taking over only when an inexperienced driver doesn't react quickly enough. Licenses could be amended so drivers would have to have a certain number of independent driving hours. These hours could actually be monitored and graded by the driver software. The reluctance to submit our lives and freedom to a machine are understandable.

Each driver would have to judge the level of participation and sharing. Would experienced licensed drivers never turn on the software, or would they rely on a default? One possibility is that the software would intervene when needed. Perhaps in unfamiliar places or unusual weather conditions the software would be switched to standby and act as a co-pilot/navigator.

"Toyota and Lexus have also been working on driver-less car technology but with the focus being to ‘enhance the skill of the driver’, stating a ‘more skillful driver is a safer driver’. This is done with the use of stereo cameras, laser technology with the ability to differentiate traffic light colours and detect objects up to 100 feet away. These cars work with the driver to make the roads a safer place, not remove the driver altogether."

Software for the Autopilot

Software has been developed and is currently being tested for self-driving cars. Once cars are on the road there will have to be upgrades to hardware and software. The beauty of this is that software can be downloaded. Therein lies the danger.

Hacking is a potential danger. Whether the nuisance of spam,the inconvenience of malware, or the malicious and dangerous seizure of files and vehicle security. In order to avoid hacking of critical systems navigation software will have to be separate from communications, entertainment and weather software. Those systems(and others) will need to be constantly on line. Theoretically navigation software can operate locally as its sensors take in information. The software will create problems and opportunities for programmers and for hackers. Security programs will have to be rigidly maintained and certain programs will need either absolute isolation, or be hardwired. Likely, it will be a combination of these two options.

Security software will protect against unwanted apps as well as prevent theft or unauthorized navigation changes. Carjackers could be incapacitated or merely identified through facial recognition and picked up later. Attempted changes in navigation would be logged and reported to authorized owners. So the first time Sparky tries to send the car for beer or ditch school, Mom and Dad will get a video and a printout of the attempts. Sparky will be taking the driver-less city bus for a few weeks.

Concept cars

What will the cars look like?
What will the cars look like? | Source

Safety Infographic

Evolution of automobile safety
Evolution of automobile safety | Source

How much will a driverless car cost?

The current designs vetted by Mercedes, BMW and Toyota are luxurious and look fairly pricey. The Google car looks like an inexpensive student project. Demand will bring the price down. A sharing system will further decrease the price. More substantial savings will come as these become vehicles of monetization. Much like computers and phones host apps and games, driver-less car could become platforms for communication,entertainment,financial and education applications. We may end up buying just a shell and customizing it 'IKEA' style. Let's hope they include all the door handles.

How should driverless cars be powered?

See results

The wider range of possibilities

Driverless cars will change the way we live our lives as radically as cars changed the eras that bought Fords, Studebakers, Chryslers, Mustangs, Cadillac dreams and Mercedes' status. Cars are different from what ruled the road a generation ago. Cars have TVs, computers and are climate controlled. They will change as to be almost unrecognizable. They will become mobile offices, living rooms, cinemas, study rooms, utility sheds, medical clinics, and bedrooms. The concept of a front seat and back seat will become fluid. The isolated driver may disappear along with a conventional steering wheel.

Cars that go shopping for the family may pull into drive through supermarkets that have pre-packed purchases you bought online. The same for restaurants. On long trips the car may be both bedroom and living room. School buses could become tutorial centers, or locker rooms for that big game across town or out of town. Your office may be mobile and the meeting room would go out to pick up clients. Police cars as mobile community centers. Ambulances as fully equipped trauma centers. Fire support cars become emergency clinics or command centers. Sandwich trucks with more room for a proper kitchen.

Baby can't sleep. You need quiet time. You've had another long week and just want to get out of the city and see the stars. Cars offer freedom and mobility. This doesn't have to change although it may not be the sole province of licensed drivers for much longer.

George Hotz hacks the driver-less car

Hacking Phenomenon builds self-driving car

George Hotz is a 26-year-old hacker built a self-driving car in a month. Hotz retrofitted a 2016 Acura in his garage. 1,300 USD for cameras, computers and software for a retrofit package for existing cars that would cost about 1,000 USD

Not just Driver-less cars, but trucks as well

Moon Knight's ride

Marc Spector has new wheels in his mission to protect the night.
Marc Spector has new wheels in his mission to protect the night. | Source

Moon Knight Attribution

Scanned from comic and photoshopped
Scanned from comic and photoshopped | Source

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