A year or two ago, it looked like self-driving vehicles might be just around the corner. However, don’t get rid of your driver’s license just yet. After the buzz that erupted after multiple deaths were reported from the use of self-driving vehicles, the public remains skeptical about the level of safety regarding this type of travel. A 2018 Gallup poll shows that 59% of Americans would be uncomfortable riding in a self-driving vehicle. When asked about sharing the road with self-driving trucks, the negative responses go even higher.
Self-Driving vs. Driver-Assisted
Part of the problem may stem from a lack of true understanding regarding the difference between the concepts of “self-driving” vs. “driver-assisted”. Several years ago, a man was killed when a semi-truck made a left turn in front of him while he was in a driver-assisted Tesla vehicle. Neither the driver or the Tesla vehicle applied the brakes, and the roof of the vehicle was completely sheared off. According to Tesla, their Autopilot system is an assist feature and drivers are expected to keep both hands on the wheel even when the vehicle is in Autopilot mode. Unfortunately in the case of the Tesla driver, he either misunderstood how the Autopilot worked or he was inattentive. In addition, the vehicle itself did not see the semi-truck because of the high ride height of the trailer.
Maybe in 10 Years
It is more likely that auto manufacturers (and technology companies) will need to gradually add driver-assisted features to vehicles over time, rather than expecting everyone in the general public to understand precisely how the new technologies will function in all the situations that occur while driving. Of course, as the Tesla example points out, technology companies still have some distance to go before they are capable of addressing every possible scenario that invariably occurs on the road. Still, the trend is moving ever closer to a self-driving society, as even now high-end vehicles have self-driving features such as self-parallel parking, warning drivers when they drift over to other lanes, and automatically braking when the vehicle “sees” a potential collision.