Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have been working on a self-driving car using a Cadillac SRX as their vehicle. Using a series of sensors such as radar and lidar that are non-noticeable and all around the car, the vehicle is able to detect and process information using the computer found below the floor of the interior. This allows the car to navigate around the city and avoid obstacles to ensure safety of passengers and people around the car. Also included is the ability for the human driver to take control:
“In addition to its autonomous driving capabilities, this vehicle also allows seamless switching between autonomous and manual driving. The driver can override the vehicle’s decisions in an instant. We did this a couple of times to ensure the safety of passengers both inside and outside the vehicle,” Rajkumar, one of the professors who designed the car, stated on the University’s website.
Along with the building of the car, six transmission switches had to be installed on intersections throughout D.C. to allow the demonstration to Congress to take place.
Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee were offered the opportunity to ride in the vehicle to test it out for themselves. Being that the allowance of the car to be in public hands would have to be approved by the committee and Congress overall, this was a great demonstration as it showed it glimpse into the future of automobiles.
Unfortunately, right before the car was going for another ride, it broke down and wouldn’t start. No one knows for sure what caused the break-down, but Raj has stated that it was likely overheating just like any other vehicle could, as it was a hot day and the car had been running for more than 6 hours; one component overheated and the car failed to start. Because of this, there really is no need to worry as it wasn’t caused by the new technology.
However, due to the fact that this IS new technology and people have to put their lives in the hands of this new technology, any malfunction, even if it’s not caused by the technology itself, is going to be seen as something to worry about to the public: especially when it’s an important government official in the seat. The problem with that is that people are comparing the technology to perfection and not today’s reality; accidents are bound to happen, but it’s also much better than the current scenario.
Google’s self-driving car has driven more than 300,000 miles with one accident that wasn’t caused by the car itself, and that’s surely better than what human drivers can say. Yet, like I said before, when people put their lives in the hands of things instead of people, they’re more cautious.
All we can hope for is that the rest of the demonstrations went well and continue to go well while the technology progresses more in the future.