Most people can’t afford to hire someone to drive them where they need to go in order to get to work, run errands, go on vacation, etc. – it just isn’t practical. But what if you could enjoy that kind of luxury without hiring anyone at all? What if your car was capable of driving you to and from your destination safely so you could just sit comfortably in your seat and relax until you arrived?
Well, that is the promise of self-driving cars, and it looks like they aren’t that far away. In fact, many of them are out on the roads already being safety tested by some of the biggest companies in the world. Within a few years, cars that are self-driving could be available for sale on dealership lots right alongside the traditional vehicles. Something that most people believed would simply never happen is now set to be a reality in rather short order.
Obviously, there are plenty of hurdles on the way to a successful, mass-production self-driving car. It will need to operate itself safely so that it can avoid obstacles on the road, other cars, pedestrians, etc. As the owner of the car, you won’t be able to simply bring a pillow and take a nap – you will need to be sitting in the driver’s seat and be ready to take over piloting the vehicle if necessary. However, it seems likely that as the technology improves and is tested more and more, it will improve and be able to handle more challenges on its own.
At first, it is likely that self-driving cars will only be able to pilot themselves around the major roadways, such as freeways. It will require an incredibly accurate mapping system in place to be able to safely navigate all of the small roads around neighborhoods and communities. Even at that, self-driving cars could be a great benefit to people who frequently go on long road trips for business or vacation. Instead of trying to focus on the road for eight or more hours at a time, the driver could let the car do most of the work and just be ready to take over in case it is necessary. A drive of a few hundred miles would suddenly seem far more enjoyable if you didn’t have to actively drive the vehicle all along the way.
The biggest challenge that the self-driving car market is likely to encounter is simply the resistance by drivers to trust the vehicle to get them safely from one point to another. For people who have been driving for many years, turning over the control of the vehicle to a computer might be a little scary at first. However, most drivers are experienced and comfortable with cruise control to manage their speed on the freeway, so the leap in trust might not be that big.
It will be interesting to watch over the next few years to see when self-driving cars do officially make their way to market. As with anything else in business, the companies that are developing self-driving cars are going to want to be the first to market in order to get an edge on the competition. However, putting out a car that isn’t completely tested and properly functional just isn’t an option. Once the product is finally ready to be introduced to the public, and the regulations are cleared by the government, drivers will be able to consider whether the purchase of a self-driving car is right for them.
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