Removing humans from behind the steering wheel is a tough nut to crack. Before we reach the driverless, accident-free utopia we've been dreaming of for decades, we must overcome several hurdles, and they're not all technical.
Several years ago, self-driving cars seemed nearly ready to take over the roads.
"From 2020, you will be a permanent backseat driver," The Guardian said in 2015. Fully autonomous vehicles will "drive from point A to point B and encounter the entire range of on-road scenarios without needing any interaction from the driver, Business Insider wrote in 2016.
It's clear now that many of these estimates were overblown; just look at the trouble Uber had in Arizona. Driverless cars will surely make our roads safer, but removing humans from behind the steering wheel is a tough nut to crack. Before we reach the driverless, accident-free utopia we've been dreaming of for decades, we must overcome several hurdles, and they're not all technical.
Autonomous cars must navigate unpredictable and varied environments.
"I think the important thing when we think about cars is what it takes for those things to be self-driving. This is where the language of autonomy really gets us into trouble, because autonomy only applies within a given system," said Jack Stilgoe, social scientist at University College London and leader of the Driverless Futures project.
Other segments of the transportation industry, including trains and planes, have already implemented autonomy to higher levels of success than cars, he said.
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