How expensive will self-driving cars be? Will they be for everyone? Will they solve parking and safety problems? Audi brought together 19 experts from different fields to discuss the main doubts about autonomous vehicles, clearing up some of the widespread myths circulating on the topic.
Are self-driving cars about to become a reality? How will they be perceived by people and how can they be widely accepted by the broad public? The Audi SocAlty - Autonomous Driving on the Road to Social Acceptance study answers these and other questions through the opinions of 19 experts from different fields, debunking some urban legends about autonomous driving. Here are the answers to 8 myths on the topic.
1. Self-driving cars will be like normal cars, just without drivers
In electric cars aerodynamics is a key feature, since it can improve both range and comfort, which is why it is one of the major elements when it comes to design. Thus, while the exterior appearance of cars will not change radically because of automation, the interior design will be different from what we know: there will be more space available, because in some situations the steering wheel, pedals, and gearshift may temporarily be retracted. Passengers’ comfort will become a priority, and in some situations their seats may not even face the direction of travel. This increased freedom will lead to more options for creating customized experiences tailored to users, which will range from working to relaxing to socializing.
"Digitalization allows us to make mobility even safer, more personal and, especially, smarter. The goal is to seamlessly integrate vehicles into our users' daily lives, creating added value and giving them back time for the things that are important to them", explains Oliver Hoffmann, Audi Board Member for Technical Development.
2. Once the software is developed and available, self-driving cars will be able to drive anywhere
Self-driving cars will be able to circulate freely on public streets when the software is fully reliable and safe not only for the cars themselves but also for their environment. The city look will then have to change incrementally with digital infrastructure such as smart traffic lights and road sensors that will create a suitable ecosystem for autonomous mobility. In an ideal scenario, cities will evolve, become safer and more relaxed, with a smooth flow of traffic and no congestion.
3. Autonomous cars will make driving less fun
Many drivers fear that they will become idle passengers and have to give up the pleasure of driving forever. Actually, it is quite the opposite, because self-driving cars will not take the fun out of driving: no manufacturer will prevent their customers from driving, but they will allow them to choose when to give up control, perhaps in unpleasant situations such as stop-and-go traffic or highway traffic jams.
4. Self-driving cars are a hacking liability
The level of vulnerability of a self-driving car will be the same as any other car, but obviously the impact of a hacker attack can potentially be more serious. This is why manufacturers are constantly developing protective measures against cyber attacks and improving their mechanisms both inside the vehicle and outside in the back-end. As vehicles become increasingly networked and connected to their environment, the effort required to upgrade cybersecurity and maintain it at a high level will increase.
5. Autonomous cars will require fewer parking spaces
Self-driving cars will not require less parking space but will know how to use it much more efficiently. In addition, it should be considered that as autonomous and shared mobility spreads, the density of vehicles in metropolitan areas may drop. According to the German Environment Agency, today private cars are driven for an average of only one hour per day, while the rest of the time they remain parked.
6. The technology for autonomous driving is already developed, laws are still lacking
Although technological development seems faster in the United States and China than in Europe, Germany, however, has quickly created a legal framework that puts safety first in the development and introduction of autonomous driving, such that Germany itself is considered a pioneer by international standards: here, in fact, level 3 autonomous driving - under certain circumstances the driver can take his hands off the steering wheel and not operate the pedals - was authorized since as early as 2017.
From June 2021, Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles can operate in public traffic, albeit within predefined areas. This law is the first step toward comprehensive regulation, which is currently being worked on intensively, always keeping in mind that safety comes first.
7. In extreme cases, autonomous vehicles will have to make life-and-death decisions
Actually, self-driving cars do not make decisions, but the humans who program the software that governs the vehicle do. All research shows that cars are significantly less susceptible to human error than humans, since they do not get tired and distracted. Nevertheless, many people are concerned about the ability of an autonomous car to choose in a hazardous situation. This question has matter of discussion in ethics for decades, as explained in the "Trolley problem."
One has to imagine a runaway trolley and the possibility of diverting it onto a side track where it would run over one person but save the lives of five other people who are instead on a collision course on the main track. What is the right solution? Choose the lesser evil or not intervene at all? According to experts, the central point is another, which is that a self-driving car's choices reflect those of the people who programmed its software. An autonomous vehicle doesn't make interpretations; it makes decisions based on what it has been taught. The discussion, therefore, will have to move from theory to more concrete issues that directly affect companies: for example, liability and risk assessment.
8. As a technology, self-driving cars will be so expensive that few people will be able to afford it
Developing technology for autonomous driving requires large investments, and this impacts the cost of products in the short and medium term. But in the long term, when they are ready for series production and the development costs have been amortized accordingly, prices will fall. In addition, the increased level of road safety will significantly reduce the damage a self-driving car suffers, resulting in lower repair and insurance costs. Finally, in metropolitan areas, some autonomous vehicles will belong to mobility providers instead of to individuals, or they will be shared by multiple people through sharing concepts, with a positive impact on efficiency and costs.
Source: AUDI AG
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