Self-driving cars need to be more intelligent, regulated, safer and not be able to be hacked before they are able to be common place on our roads.
Professor Timothy Gordon, from the University of Lincoln, told Factor he believes it will be around 20 years before cars will be able to automatically take us places we want to go.
He said: “In the advanced area of the self-driving ‘take me to work’ function, there is no legal framework so far. That is needed to allow the kind of vehicles we are talking about going on to the public highway, doing everything they are going to do in a controlled, and hopefully safe, way.
“My guess is you could have something in 20 years where you might be able to get on a dedicated lane of the M1 and press the auto cruise and be able to let the car drive, eyes-off-the-road style.”
Gordon, who is working with car manufacturer Volvo on their own self-driving vehicles, said the UK’s announcement to provide funding and, importantly, develop a framework for their use was a positive step.
Gordon said, as well as legal issues in their implementation, there will need to be enough public trust that wireless systems in the cars cannot be hacked – as well as the cars’ intelligence and safety.
Wireless technology could play a large role in the future of self-driving cars as it has the potential to allow cars to communicate with their surroundings. For example, Honda has been developing traffic lights which can interact with their cars.
Gordon said: “I think another thing that will concern people is that when these vehicles use wireless and network communications, whether anyone can hack into it, there may be malicious people who would disrupt such systems, so their security becomes a really big thing.
“This is another reason why smart systems using wireless technology – so called connected vehicles – need to prove the security as well as the safety.”
He also said there needs to be further advancement in the technologies used before the public level of trust, as with all emerging technologies, reaches a level where everyone will want to use the cars.
This can be seen from Google, in recent days, agreeing to add a steering wheel to its driverless cars after new rules were passed by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Gordon said that to some extent self-driving cars already exist on our roads as they are able to use technology such as adaptive cruise control, which changes the speed of a car based on the distance between itself and others.
However, he said, for the more speculative cars, which are able to take more control, they need to be more intelligent.
“The cars can definitely drive themselves but the question is that can they drive themselves safely? And therefore do they have the higher level of intelligence that means that they can work under all conditions, snow, rain, dark, strong winds, but more to the point in the real-world traffic environment?
“The need for hazard perception and suitably safe operation is going to be the factor that keeps this on a fairly slow track.”
Featured image courtesy of Google. Image one and two courtesy of Volvo