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Self-Driving Cars - Where are we now? - - BlackboxMyCar

Self-Driving Cars - Where are we now?

Self-driving cars, driverless cars, autonomous cars, robocars - whatever you want to call them, were once a wild vision from science fiction. Back in 1962, the Jetsons were welcomed into households worldwide, depicting flying, self-driving vehicles for you, your kids, and even your dog!

Ever since then, the idea has been engraved in our collective unconscious. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence and sensor technology, the concept of self-driving cars transformed from fiction to reality — or has it?

With the rise of electric vehicles from General Motors, BMW, and Tesla, manufacturers have publicly stated and guaranteed the arrival of self-driving vehicles. Fast forward to 2024, and people are still asking, what’s the latest update on these companies’ promises? While the potential benefits are compelling, including increased accessibility, efficiency, and sustainability, there are real concerns about safety, technical flaws, cybersecurity, and ethical issues. As self-driving cars become a reality, it's crucial to stay vigilant on the road, using tools like dash cams to ensure safety and protection for all vehicles, whether operated by humans or AI.

First, who are the Big Players of Self-Driving?

The world of Self-Driving Vehicles is largely led by major vehicle manufacturers, tech giants, and other industries, inextricably linked to how we operate, and automate our everyday lives. The face of the movement is arguably Elon Musk, who never fails to mention it in Tesla discussions.

Tesla

Almost 8 years ago, we recall how Elon Musk first surprised the automotive world when he announced that Tesla vehicles would be equipped with the hardware required for full self-driving. In their official press release in 2016, Tesla confirmed, “Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not.”

While people get more and more interested in testing and riding self-driving cars, it appears that Elon Musk has yet to deliver, despite repeatedly stating that his company will achieve full self-driving capabilities next year, next year, and next year. Here’s a speech from him in 2019.

"Next year" has been his response for several years. Just a few months ago, in his speech at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai in Q3 of 2023, he gave another update on the status of self-driving Teslas. "I think we are very close to achieving full self-driving without human supervision.” He continued, “This is only speculation, but I think we'll achieve full self-driving, maybe what you would call four or five, I think, later this year.”

To keep you in the loop, when he states level 4 or 5, he’s referring to the SAE standards define levels of autonomous driving on a numerical scale of 0 to 5, with Level 5 indicating that a car can fully drive itself without human involvement.

Currently, the technologies available are Tesla's Autopilot, a traffic-aware cruise control system with lane-keeping assist comparable to other automakers' adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems. It also offers Full Self-Driving, which despite its name, does not possess Level 5 self-driving capabilities. Level 5 means that a vehicle will be fully autonomous in any weather, on any road, anywhere in the world. In Tesla’s Case, Full Self Driving can handle tasks like parking, lane changes, and stopping at signs and lights, but still requires the driver's attention at all times.

While Tesla hasn’t fully released a true self-driving car yet, they are far from alone in this self-driving craze.

BMW

BMW announced that they are bringing its vehicles to the next generation of autonomous driving standards with the implementation of "Personal Pilot L3" in the new 7 Series. Level 3, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, offers highly automated “hands-off, eyes off’ driving. This implies that German drivers will be permitted to legally take their hands off the wheel this coming March 2024.

Still, as one might anticipate, this technology is subject to a number of requirements in order to ensure a successful launch. For example, automobiles can only self-drive up to a maximum speed of 37 mph on motorways.

Ford and Lincoln

Ford and its luxury division, Lincoln, introduced BlueCruise, a Level 2 automation system. This technology combines adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance, enabling drivers to momentarily remove their hands from the wheel while maintaining visual focus on the road.

Currently, Ford’s system utilizes over 100,000 miles of pre-mapped roads and activates with a blue background on the instrument cluster when applicable. If you’re wondering how much it will cost, they said it’s now available for purchase on various Ford and Lincoln models, with a subscription cost of $2,400 for three years, contingent on acquiring the necessary equipment package.

General Motors / Cruise

Similar to Ford, General Motors, through their automation company, Cruise. It specializes in the development of autonomous driving technology. Cruise has been at the forefront of advancing autonomous vehicle technology and is considered a significant player in the autonomous driving industry. GM acquired Cruise in 2016 and has worked closely with the company to develop and deploy self-driving vehicles. In 2022, Cruise began its rollout and testing of vehicles in California, but progress has been start-stop-start and is still on hold, as they are still under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, as of January 2024.

General Motors also offers a Level 2 advanced driver assistance system through the Super Cruise tech in Cadillac vehicles and others like the Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV. This includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, and automatic emergency braking. Notably, it functions only on roads previously mapped by GM using lidar technology, covering at least 200,000 miles in the U.S. and Canada. Still, drivers must stay alert, with a monitoring system tracking their attention. While this is only Level 2 automation and doesn’t represent full self-driving, Super Cruise is complimentary for the initial three years but requires a subscription afterward.

Waymo

Google subsidiary Waymo has also launched a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service called Waymo One, where users can request rides in self-driving vehicles. The Waymo Driver sees and understands the world through a number of sensors, including cameras outside the car, and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) software — a process that they call “Sense, Solve, Go.” 

Waymo has claimed for years that its driverless vehicles have the potential to be safer than humans. They recently analyzed 7.13 million fully driverless miles in three cities — Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — and compared the data to human driving benchmarks. This stated that Waymo's driverless cars were 6.7 times less likely than human drivers to be involved in an accident resulting in an injury. Let’s see if this is the case based on new reports.

Self-Driving Cars – What could be the benefits?

There are compelling reasons why we might fall in love with self-driving automobiles in the near (or distant) future. First, we appreciate how self-driving cars represent new independence and accessibility for persons with restricted mobility, for the elderly, or for those unable to drive.

Self-driving cars, especially useful for fleets, use LiDAR, radar, GPS, and computer vision to sense their environment. The gathered sensory data is processed to optimize routes, avoid obstructions, and follow traffic laws. Regular updates to a computerized map allow the vehicle to adapt to changing environments and locations, making fleet management more efficient.

Additionally, because autonomous vehicles are typically electric, they also emit no pollution, minimizing their carbon footprint and promoting the sustainability of the environment.

However, aside from functionality, efficiency and sustainability, we think safety is the most important concern here. Are self-driving cars safe, even without human intervention?


Our Real Concerns about Self-Driving Cars

More than just self-driving cars being expensive, priced for our social elite at almost a hundred thousand dollars per unit, we have more reasons why the actualization of this dreamy concept has hit more than a few speed bumps.

In August 2023, hundreds of driverless cars and taxi companies like Google’s Waymo and GM’s Cruise have already been deployed in numerous US locations. However, they have been recalled due to reported car accidents. This year, with much less controversy, Waymo is still testing its services. Based on reviews, Waymo vehicles still fail to locate pickup zones, stop suddenly, and take wasteful routes, sometimes stopping in the middle of the road. Skeptics say that the driverless car experiment has “failed miserably” that even Cruise’s new boss Mo Elshenawy, admitted the General Motors subsidiary was at an “all-time low” as it faces massively reduced investment.  

While peddlers of the Self-Driving narrative love stating that these vehicles cite safer records than human drivers, this is best disputed in the words of The Washington Post:

Waymo and Cruise have both cited self-reported data that their robot cars have a superior track record to human drivers, and say their technology will eventually usher in a future with fewer road deaths and injuries. Still, over the past year, the cars have caused major headaches around the city — from disrupting traffic by stopping short or breaking down in the middle of the road, to once rolling over a fire hose at an emergency scene . . . According to the lawsuit, the city is asking the CPUC to reconsider the permits for Waymo and also "develop reporting requirements, safety benchmarks, and other needed public safety regulations" that would address "serious incidents involving first responders, street traffic interference, and disruption of public transportation."

As promoters of road safety through dashcams, our dilemma with self-driving cars is that safety risks continue to be controversial, especially during technical flaws. A computer malfunction—even a little glitch—could potentially result in a worse accident than anything caused by human mistake.

Apart from difficulties in determining the intentions of human road users, self-driving vehicles may also struggle in certain sorts of weather. Heavy rain can interfere with laser sensors positioned on the roof, while snow can interfere with cameras, which may affect the data-gathering process of the car’s system.

Next, security. We believe that every computer technology may be hacked occasionally, so it's a near-certainty that self-driving cars will be hacked, too. The Washington Post stated that cybersecurity became a "significant concern" for the automotive sector as cars got more automated.

Beyond that, Self-Driving cars also raise moral and philosophical questions – if the car crashes without a driver, who is to blame: the software designer or the vehicle owner? Driverless cars will undoubtedly spark discussions regarding legal, ethical, and financial responsibility. During times of road incidents involving a self-driving car, how will the police engage and penalize them?

Precedent examples of this are already being set, as in 2019, a Tesla Auto-pilot driver pled no contest to 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter after slamming into another vehicle, being let off with 2-year probation. Another 2018 case from Uber found the backup Uber Driver for a self-driving vehicle involved in another vehicular manslaughter case, pleading guilty to endangerment and not guilty to negligent homicide, resulting in 3-year’s supervised probation. The fact that these cases have been sitting in a 5-year purgatory with only recent results speaks to the complex nature of instances like this.

Finally, employment will be lost over time. Our beloved truckers, taxi drivers, Uber/Lyft, ride-sharing drivers, and delivery drivers would all lose their employment as self-driving vehicles take over. With largescale technological shifts in an industry, the working man is often left holding the bag, while wealth is further consolidated in the upper level.


Self-Driving Cars – Where Are We Now?

As the market demands, little stands in the way of the wheels of progress, this time more literally than ever. These days, we are seeing more and more cities perform tests with autonomous vehicles, with rollouts of vehicles in San Francisco and other areas, from ridesharing to pizza deliveries. But there's more than a few speedbumps in the way this time.

Every day, more and more stories come to light as these vehicles struggle to recognize children and cover up crimes. Vehicle rollouts have hit massive roadblocks, requiring serious cutbacks on the number of vehicles on the road, with high-level calls being issued for Industry-Wide Investigations.

Even in the process of writing this, more stories come to light, such as the city of San Francisco suing the California Public Utilities Commission over the decision to allow Waymo Vehicles, or Cruise vehicles, reportedly hiding evidence of dragging a pedestrian. While we all understand the risk that human drivers present on the road, self-driving cars present a brand-new risk, with all-new pitfalls, ones that can cause you to slam the brakes as soon as you spot a traffic cone, pigeon, or small child. We are all implicated in this grand experiment, whether we like it or not.


Our Recommendation

Now more than ever is the time to keep a watchful eye on all vehicles on the road, with a Dash Cam. Through Dash Cams, we can keep all vehicles on the road in check with constant recording, whether they’re operated by robots and AI, or humans like us. Pedestrian crossings, traffic signs, and other cars you share the road with – a dash cam has the ability to record every detail, highly valuable in case of any incident.

Dash cams can also be installed in any vehicle, available in a wide range of price points and coverages, guaranteed to keep your journeys safe and protected, no driver left behind.

Dash cams not only protect you on the road, but keep everyone else around you on the road covered and accountable, as we all grow accustomed to the new systems being thrown into our environment.

Safe driving out there everyone, today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

Our Recommendations

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