In recent years the development of autonomous vehicles has scared many people, the thought of a car that drives itself around with no human contact instils fear.

According to the government, the autonomous car industry is worth £900bn worldwide, but the legalities and issues surrounding fault are significant steps to overcome. Many car companies are tapping into this vast potential and creating autonomous vehicles, with companies like Jaguar Land Rover announcing they will be sending out autonomous cars by the end of this year.

The hope is that self-driving cars will help to lower congestion, decrease the number of accidents, and improve traffic flow as they will be able to spot risks and barriers and communicate with other vehicles. They will be able to control steering, braking and their speed, and be able to make safe decisions based on their perception of the road conditions, but are drivers confident about sharing the roads with them?

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Worrying the country

In a recent Facebook poll that PetrolPrices ran, where we asked people “Are you worried about self-driving cars being allowed on the roads?”, 70% of respondents said that they were indeed worried, with some referencing the issue around who would get prosecuted in the event of an accident. On the other hand, one person said they would not ride in one but would be happy sharing the road as the non-autonomous driver can see and note their surroundings.

A survey by WhatCar? also revealed that 45% of drivers found the thought of self-driving cars unappealing. On the other hand, a separate study by SMNT found that 49% of 17-24-year-olds would use an autonomous vehicle, with a considerable 71% saying that connected and autonomous vehicles would improve their life. These statistics show that younger drivers who have grown up with technology are more trusting of it, whereas the majority of older drivers have not grown up surrounded by smart devices.

The government is not helping with these fears as they want to allow driverless cars for consumer use on the road by 2020. However, they have said for all autonomous vehicle testing a competent driver must be present to step in if it is needed.

Artificial Intelligence

These autonomous vehicles will start to be tested on public roads after nearly three years of testing on private land as the Artificial Intelligence (AI) needs to be able to learn to mimic human actions as best as they can. This is called machine learning, and by recognising different triggers while driving, they can apply human-like actions to their decision-making process. The hope is that the closer to human driving the autonomous vehicles can get, the general public will feel more comfortable being on the same roads as them.

Most human drivers fear AI as they worry it will prompt more accidents than drivers cause. In fact, 34% of drivers said this would be their biggest concern with autonomous vehicles. In response to this, car manufacturers have stated that human error causes 90% of crashes, and artificial intelligence will not be distracted by a mobile phone or nod off behind the wheel.

The current situation

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi have a project called HumanDrive, which uses machine learning to help create a safe autonomous vehicle, have said they will release a vehicle for testing late next year. On its drive across the UK, HumanDrive will take control of the steering, braking, speed, road position and decision-making, as well as the perception of conditions and features required to pilot the car fully. Before this, the car will have been intensely tested on private roads and tracks in a variety of conditions to promote complete safety.

Most traditional car retailers are facing competition from companies like Tesla and Google, who are pioneering the way forward and changing the perception of what autonomous vehicles can do over in America.

What’s next?

In the future of AI, machine learning and autonomy, no one can predict what will happen next. All we can do at the moment is wait and arm ourselves with the knowledge to be able to adapt to the rise of autonomous vehicles.

What do you think about self-driving vehicles? Are you excited to see them on public roads? Let us know in the comments below

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