O what will bring autonomous driving back to the car market? Will it be soon? Will cars be able to drive anywhere? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered when it comes to self-driving.
This is why Audi has carried out a study called “SocAIty”, prepared with the help of renowned experts, which analyzes these and other problems related to autonomous driving, also clarifying some myths already heard.
Myth #1: “Autonomous cars will be like conventional cars, they simply won’t have a driver.”
Aerodynamics in particular is a key factor when it comes to the range of electric cars, which is why it continues to play an important role in design. The way cars and other increasingly automated means of transport present themselves will not change drastically in this regard. What is clear, however, is that the design will, in future, focus on the interior. Passenger comfort will be a priority, which is why your seats may not necessarily be forward-facing in some use cases. This freedom of interior design will offer passengers on board a wide range of options for individually customizable experiences: communication or relaxation, work or refuge. Passenger space will be maximised, allowing everything no longer needed – the pedals, shift knob and steering wheel – to be temporarily retracted.
Myth #2: “Once the software is developed and available, self-driving cars will be able to drive anywhere.”
Putting self-driving cars on the road will require completely reliable and secure software, not just for the car, but for the entire environment around it. This will continually change the look of our cities: to this end, the infrastructure must be extended to include smart traffic lights and road sensors. Cities will become more digital, providing an ecosystem suitable for an increasing number of automated vehicles. This will make cities safer and more relaxed, where ideally traffic can flow without interruptions or traffic jams.
Myth #3: “Self-driving cars will make driving less fun”.
This myth is an obvious source of anxiety for car lovers: to be condemned to the role of idle passenger. Some worry that their car will keep them from cruising across the country and enjoying the thrill of feeling their foot on the pedal and their hands on the wheel. But the reverse is true: self-driving cars won’t take away the driving pleasure we have behind the wheel. No manufacturer will prevent its customers from driving their own car if they wish. In the future, vehicle owners will still be able to drive the car themselves or hand over control to the vehicle in less pleasant situations, such as traffic jams.
Myth #4: “Self-driving cars present a risk of hacking”.
This statement is not true. Autonomous vehicles will not be more vulnerable than conventional cars. That said, the impact of a hacker attack on a self-driving car’s security systems can be more severe. For this reason, manufacturers are constantly developing protective measures against cyberattacks and improving protection mechanisms, both inside and outside the vehicle. As automobiles become more and more connected to their environment, the efforts required to ensure reliable and always up-to-date cybersecurity also increase. At the same time, automated vehicles will increase road safety – in addition to providing better efficiency and greater comfort, a benefit for society as a whole.
Myth #5: “Self-driving cars will require fewer parking spaces.”
Autonomous vehicles will not need fewer parking spaces. But they will use them much more effectively. In addition, vehicle density could decrease in metropolitan areas if an increasing proportion of vehicles are used together through car-sharing models. For example: According to the German Environment Agency, passenger cars currently only drive an average of one hour a day.
Myth #6: “The technology is already ready, but the legislation on autonomous driving remains to be defined”.
It is true that technological development in countries like the United States or China seems to be progressing faster than in Germany and Europe. However, it is also true that German lawmakers created a legal framework early on that puts safety first in the development and introduction of autonomous driving technology. In this regard, Germany is even considered a pioneer country by international standards. Since 2017, autonomous driving systems are allowed, under certain circumstances, to perform actions that were previously the sole responsibility of humans (SAE Level 3). In June 2021, a legal framework was established that allows autonomous vehicles of level 4 or higher to operate regularly in public traffic, but only in defined areas (for example, shuttle routes from point A to point A). B and buses to transport people on specific routes). This law constitutes a first step towards a more complete regulation, which is currently the subject of intensive work. The truth, then, is this: law enforcement authorities do not block development. They simply follow the legally established principle that safety comes first.
Myth #7: “In extreme situations, autonomous vehicles will have to make life or death decisions.”
When it comes to autonomous driving, the decisive factor from today’s perspective is: it is not the car itself that decides, but the humans who program the vehicle. The vehicle can only mirror what the software specifies. And all the previous research shows it: cars are significantly less susceptible to human error than humans, for example, due to their immunity to fatigue, even on long journeys. Experts say the crux of the debate is that an autonomous vehicle would not make its own decision in a dangerous situation, but would only reflect the software choices its creators gave it. It can and will only assume the decisions and ethical values of the people who design it – and it will apply them without its own interpretation.
Myth #8“As a technology, self-driving cars will be so expensive that few people will be able to afford them.”
The development of autonomous cars requires large investments. In the short and medium term, of course, this has an impact on product costs. But in the long run – that is, when they are ready for mass production and development costs have been amortized accordingly – prices will come down. In addition, the expected increase in road safety will significantly reduce the damage suffered by a self-driving car. This, in turn, will likely further reduce repair and insurance costs. Another important factor is the anticipated evolution of mobility: in metropolitan areas, some autonomous vehicles will be owned by mobility providers rather than private individuals. Or they will be shared by several people through carpooling. It also increases the efficiency of use and will have a positive impact on costs.
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