If you thought driverless cars were coming some time in the distant future, think again! At the beginning of this year, General Motors (GM) announced that they would bring autonomous cars to the masses by 2019. Uber have also said that they plan to have self-driving taxis available by summer 2019.
For more than a century vehicles have been driven by humans and have consisted of a steering wheel and pedals. Next year, GM will have a driverless debut and introduce a fleet of autonomous cars in the US. “We’ve put together four generations of autonomous vehicles over the course of 18 months,” says Dan Ammann, GM’s president. “You can safely assume that the fourth generation won’t be the last.”
“It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” Ammann continues.“And it’s an interesting thing to share with everybody.”
GM plan to spend $100 million to begin making production versions of its self-driving electric Chevy Bolt, The Cruise AV. This will be the companies first vehicle built to operate without steering wheel, pedals or manual controls.
With companies such as Apple, Intel, IBM, and Cisco (who are not in the car industry) already manufacturing parts for autonomous cars, it seems we are heading for an automotive revolution.
How will these new machines change our world?
Well, first of all, in states such as California, you will not be required to obtain a driver’s license to operate a self driving car. This means that people who have medical conditions that prevent them from driving will be able to benefit from using these cars. In addition, considering that you won’t need to pay too much attention to the road, autonomous cars might increase social interaction, allowing you to get more work done on your commute to work or chat with friends. The cost of a single self-driving car is $300K+, however, GM plan to mass produce these vehicles by offering car-sharing options such as Maven. Driverless cars are likely to be electric, making them better for the environment, by helping to reduce CO2 emissions. They will also save a lot of space on the roads as they will be adept at parking much closer to other cars.
It is important to note that the introduction of mass-produced autonomous vehicles will also present some challenges. Autonomous trucks will be utilised by companies such as Walmart, and as a result, a lot of delivery drivers will be out of a job. In addition, given the fact that the cars will be fully digital, they run the risk of being manipulated by hackers. Despite these drawbacks, experts are confident that autonomous vehicles will reduce traffic fatalities by 90% and give us an average of 50 extra minutes per day.