VOL.2

Look Ma, No Driver!

Most of us have observed the enhancements auto manufacturers have made to their vehicles in the past decade. There was a time when we used to see side and rear airbags as state of the art safety features – but with some of the recent developments in automobile safety, airbags seem merely ubiquitous and even dated. (They are still essential and more importantly, required by law as mandated in the Intermodal Transportation Efficiency Act.) Say you were to visit a dealership today and buy the latest model-year vehicle. There's a good chance the dealer will offer you the option of installing collision avoidance features for an additional charge. You may even be able to find a base model with those features already included. Automotive technology over the last decade has advanced very quickly, and is catering to a driving public increasingly uninterested in cars with “antiquated” features like manual transmission and crank-powered windows.

Drivers want the latest and most cutting-edge automobiles and features, and the industry's engineers of the future have been hard at work to meet these expectations. On the horizon is a self-driving car, currently being developed by car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Nissan for market introduction no later than 2020. Early propositions for a self-driving car sprang up as early as 2008, and work on making such a car widely available hit the ground running, gaining more and more momentum as the years have passed. Because of the innumerable issues that self-driving cars have presented, it is no wonder that it may take up to a decade to iron out the kinks in the design.

For example, self-driving cars have trouble correctly identifying and analyzing landscapes. There are traffic signals and signs, as well as obstacles the car needs to recognize, which it cannot presently do without error. The cars also do a poor job of distinguishing one object from another; for instance, they may identify something as harmless as a plastic bag as a ball of harmful debris. Despite its shortcomings, the driverless car has until 2020, maybe beyond, to be modified and perfected. Within the next 10 years, driverless cars may very well rule the road, but until then, engineers will feverishly attack the drawbacks leading up to its release.