The driver behind driverless cars

Rewind 18 months ago; as part of the World Science Festival Alliance Leasing staff attended the “Automated Autos: The Future of Driver-less Driving and Drones” seminar in Brisbane. It covered key topics surrounding what our future would look like if we were to have flying driver-less cars. It questioned whether Australian’s are ready to share the airways for flying drone taxis, driver-less vehicles and endless amounts of drones delivering food, parcels and potentially medication. The event opened up Pandora’s box in relation to the possibilities but also the threats that such technology would pose to our lives. There are countless questions that we need to ask before we start adopting driver-less flying cars. Australians love the sun. Will we be bothered by the fact that our future sunsets might be full of drones and flying cars? Will our sporting ovals be overshadowed by drone shadows? Computer’s fail occasionally, what happens if there’s a glitch and a drone or a car comes crashing down from the sky?

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Now
Fast forward 18 months to the present day and we find ourselves in the thick of semi-autonomous vehicle trials in Australia across major brands such as Hyundai, BMW and Volvo. These trials wrap up at the end of August. Needless to say, the results will be highly anticipated as our road infrastructure is now being modified to support driver-less operation. As an example, traffic lights are being upgraded in all major states to be able to communicate with vehicles wirelessly. This potentially means that one day, the traffic will be controlled by a computer. An algorithm-driven transport system that communicates with all users.

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What’s driving this idea?
They say driver-less technology promises decreased congestion, increased safety, flexibility and fuel efficiency. As many can appreciate, the trials of these semi-autonomous vehicles still need to consistently / 100% of the time pass basic tests such as correctly identifying speed limit signs, lane marketing’s, pedestrians and animals! Based on the results thus far, we haven’t quite got there yet. As an example, trials in Victoria have found that semi-autonomous vehicles are having increased difficulty picking up yellow line marking as opposed to white. Just like a car, there are many moving parts when it comes to automated autos. In the USA, autonomous vehicles from Google, Volvo, Tesla and Uber are already on the road and are set to drive Americans home within the next five years. Crazy!

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Not yet in Australia
Are we ready to share our roads, airways and personal space with self-flying taxis, driver-less vehicles and consumer drones? Will we ever fully trust a computer over human experience and intuition behind the wheel in a crunch situation? Now is the time to talk and raise concerns. It’s always best to measure twice and cut once, because when this happens it’ll snowball. We’ll very soon discover that computers are doing all the driver-less driving, but they’ll eventually be driving everything one day! It is believed that Australia are the best part of a decade away from fully adopting the technology. It’s great we have a time and date stamp on this, we’ll have to see what happens!