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Why We Need Self Driving Cars

Xavier Rigoulet
December 15th, 2021 · 5 min read

Self-driving cars, or driverless cars, are the term used for when cars can drive without human drivers.

Self-driving cars use sensors, like cameras and LiDAR, to map out the surrounding area and make decisions accordingly.

Some people may be hesitant to hand over control of their car to a computer, but these automated driving systems can make roads safer.

In this article, after going through the five levels of automation of these advanced driver assistance systems, as defined by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), I will discuss some of the benefits of self-driving cars.

What are the Five Levels of Automation in Self-Driving Cars?

First, it is essential to understand that there are five levels of automation in self-driving cars. The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) has put these five levels in place.

Driver Support Features

Levels 0, 1, and 2 are driver support features. The person behind the steering wheel is driving whenever these features are engaged and must constantly supervise these features to maintain safety.

Level 0 of Automated Driving Systems

First, at level 0, the car’s features are limited to providing warnings and momentary assistance. Some features are automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, or lane departure warning.

Level 1 of Automated Driving Systems

Second, at level 1, we have steering OR brake and accelerating support features. Here, we can have either lane-centering OR adaptive cruise control.

Level 2 of Automated Driving Systems

Third, we have steering AND brake and accelerating support features. It means that we can have lane AND adaptive cruise control simultaneously.

Automated Driving Features

Starting at level 3 up to the last level of automation (level 5), we enter the world of autonomous driving. When these features are engaged, the person in the driver’s seat is not driving.

Level 3 of Automated Driving Systems

At level 3, the human driver is not driving when the features are engaged but must take over the steering wheel if the system requires you to do so.

The system can drive the vehicle under limited conditions and will not operate unless all requirements are met. An example of a feature available at level 3 of automated vehicles is a traffic jam chauffeur.

Level 4 of Automated Driving Systems

From level 4 onwards, automated vehicles do not require human intervention to take over the steering wheel. Like level 3, the autonomous driving features will only be available if all the conditions are met. Examples of such features include local driverless taxis, and it is interesting to note that pedals and steering wheels may or may not be installed in the vehicles.

Level 5 of Automated Driving Systems

This is the highest level that automated vehicles can achieve. Driverless vehicles do not require a human driver. This level of automation is similar to level 4 in terms of capabilities, except that automated vehicles can now operate under all conditions.

The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

There are many benefits self-driving cars can bring. There are both safety concerns and environmental concerns self-driving cars can address.

For example, self-driving cars can improve safety by drastically reducing collisions because 94% of traffic accidents are caused by human error.

These self-driving cars can decrease reliance on fossil fuels because they are also at the forefront of the development of electric vehicles, which will help in reducing emissions.

Autonomous Cars Can Save Lives

In an ideal world, automated vehicles will operate on the roads without human assistance and increase their safety by reducing road accidents.

Over 1.3 million people die in car crashes each year, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), and it appears that most accidents are caused by driver error such as distraction or intoxication.

Computers, unlike humans, do not have attention issues while driving. In addition, an autonomous car can avoid accidents by detecting and reacting to hazardous situations on the road ahead of time.

For example, driverless vehicles can slow down when they detect traffic congestion up ahead or stop when they perceive a pedestrian crossing the street.

Because making self-driving cars can remove human error, it gives some serious safety benefits to these sophisticated artificial intelligence systems.

Self-Driving Cars Make Vehicle More Accessible

One of the major benefits of self-driving technology is making transportation more accessible for those who cannot drive.

Many people cannot drive for various reasons, including age, disability, or lack of experience. Automated vehicles can be a much safer mode of transportation for these people, allowing them greater independence.

Additionally, a fully automated vehicle makes driving more convenient.

People who cannot drive for physical or mental reasons will have more travel options with an autonomous vehicle.

For example, self-driving cars can be equipped with special features to cater to the needs of a disabled human driver.

All they will need to do is press a button, and the fully autonomous cars will park the car themselves, activate controls for front and back doors, lower or raise the driver’s seat to get into or out of self-driving cars, and even read out text messages.

Besides self-driving cars on roads, self-driving shuttles can also offer another solution for transportation on campus.

With self-driving shuttles, people don’t have to walk or wait for the shuttle bus in bad weather. All they need to do is input their destination, and the autonomous vehicle will take them there. A self-driving shuttle can also accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Although self-driving cars show a lot of promise, they are not perfect. For example, self-driving cars still struggle to recognize some road signs, handle adverse weather conditions, and understand human gestures.

However, as the automotive industry and technology companies push to make this future technology a reality and as the computer processing capabilities increase, self-driving vehicles are likely to get better at handling these situations.

If self-driving cars become widespread, people won’t have to learn how to drive anymore. Schools will no longer need driver education classes for students.

Are Autonomous Vehicles Really Safer?

Despite the clear benefits, some skeptics question self-driving technology’s safety. For example, in a recent fatal accident involving a Tesla car operating on autopilot mode, the vehicle failed to recognize a white truck against a bright sky, and the driver was killed.

Since self-driving technology is still in its early stages, it is vital to investigate these types of accidents and determine what could be done to prevent them.

However, it is also important to note that self-driving cars can be much safer than human-driven cars.

Indeed, it appears that self-driving cars are likely to cause far fewer accidents, even when accounting for software glitches and cyberattacks.

Self-Driving Cars Can Reduce Traffic Congestion

Traffic congestion is a huge problem in cities around the world. It wastes time and fuel, and it’s a significant contributor to air pollution. Fully autonomous vehicles could help reduce traffic congestion.

For example, self-driving cars can be programmed to travel at consistent speeds, which would avoid the slowdowns caused when one driver goes too slowly.

Autonomous vehicles can also communicate to smooth out traffic flow, and self-driving vehicles can even go to areas of high demand.

Not only that driverless cars have the potential to decrease traffic congestion, but self-driving technology is also being developed for public transportation systems, which can help decrease crowdedness in bus or train stations.

Do we Need Self-Driving Cars: Closing Thoughts

Yes! Self-driving cars can decrease traffic congestion, reduce crashes and save lives, improve safety and make transportation more accessible for those who cannot drive.

Last but not least, another benefit of developping self-driving cars is to develop sensors and techniques that can also be beneficial for conventional cars, for example, the combination of LiDAR and cameras has a lot of potential for any non automated or automated driving system.

Thank you for reading, if you are interested in self-driving cars and computer vision, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter and read my other articles.

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