Current models of self-driving cars may currently be the best glimpse Americans can have into the future of transportation. But what exactly does it mean to be a self-driving vehicle? Many auto manufacturers are exploring the potential of self-driving cars. However, explaining this phenomenon is perhaps best illustrated by the fleet of self-driving vehicles being built by Google.
Because self-driving cars are meant to reduce the risk any motorist has of being involved in car accidents caused by driver error, self-driving vehicles practically rid motorists’ need to actively drive. Save for emergency situations, self-driving vehicles do not require motorists to operate these machines while they are in motion.
Google’s self-driving vehicles are being manufactured without brake pedals, steering wheels and gear shifts. All the “driver” has to do in regards to operating the vehicle is start it and remain prepared to push the vehicle’s red “e-stop” button in the event of an emergency that the vehicle cannot handle avoiding on its own. The vehicles are called using a smartphone app and navigate based on a destination selected from a smartphone app as well.
Humans tend to drive while distracted, intoxicated, drunk and agitated. These choices lead to otherwise preventable auto accidents. If Google’s self-driving vehicle models become the norm rather than the exception, technology truly could reduce accident rates by eliminating poor driver choices from those hazards which contribute to accidents.
However, these vehicles are not yet mainstream. Therefore, it remains critical that all motorists respect themselves, others on the road and the task of driving by operating their vehicles as safely as possible.
Source: New York Times, “Google’s Next Phase in Driverless Cars: No Steering Wheel or Brake Pedals,” John Markoff, May 27, 2014