Automated driverless vehicles: Where are we?

Graphic of a little red car depicting an automated driverless vehicle.A good question to ask about automated driverless vehicles – where are we? Five years ago there was much talk about how automated driverless vehicles would change the way we get around. While the promise is still there in terms of technology, we are still a long way from regulation and planning. That means accessible self-driving vehicles are a long way off.

An article in The Conversation explains the six levels of automation from driver assistance to full automation. Many new cars have a level of driver assistance such as keeping the car in lane, and speed control. But they require the driver to take over if necessary.

Regulators are struggling to keep pace. They need to come up with standard tests for safety and benchmarking their algorithms. The public is unsure about automation, but can see advantages especially for those who cannot currently drive. 

What do drivers think?

A yellow automated driverless vehicle is parked by the footpath.
Automated driverless vehicle

What do people really think about autonomous vehicles? A survey found two main types of response: one cognitive and one emotional. Overall there is a general acceptance of autonomous vehicles – the cognitive response. However, concerns were expressed over safety, trust and control – the emotional responses.

Negative views held by a few tended to be based on emotional factors. The key point is that assumed resistance factors, such as those relating to ethics, hacking and liability, are not top of mind in the community. This means education and information can be better tailored with this information in mind. 

The title of the article is, Dimensions of attitudes to autonomous vehicles.  Published in Urban, Planning and Transport Research, it is open access.

It will be about passengers

A small black and white pod shaped automated driverless vehicle.Driverless cars will be about passengers not drivers. Although a subtle difference, it focuses thought on users as passengers rather than drivers. And this is important because there will be more diversity of users than there are currently drivers. But this raises accessibility and other issues which are discussed in two papers.

When it comes to assistance it is usually the driver that helps riders with disabilities with getting in and out, and pointing them in the right direction. A report from Intelligent Transport Systems discusses these issues in a matter of fact way. Policy makers and vehicle designers need to think across all these issues. The title of the report is, Driverless Cars and Accessibility

David Williams in his article alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. His concern is for high-tech companies manipulating and controlling our lives further. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?

What about trust?

Automated driverless vehicle on the road.The race is on for designing a self driving car that everyone trusts. While this is essential, it also needs to be a car that everyone can use. Mark Wilson writes for FastCompany about his test “drive” experiences of these vehicles. Reading his detailed experiences from a universal design perspective, there is still a way to go in the overall design. The developments so far show much thought about convenience, such as your smartphone linking to the car so it knows it’s you. They are using the phone to give instructions. This is a technology that needs to be followed closely as it has the potential to improve inclusion or inadvertently cause more exclusion. A very interesting article; “The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem“.


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