Self-driving cars may seem like something from the distant future, but the technology behind them is rapidly being developed. While you can’t purchase a fully self-driving vehicle just yet, companies like Tesla, BMW, Volvo and more have been working to fine-tune automated driving systems. If you are like most drivers, you’re probably wondering how exactly self-driving cars work and if they're safer than human-driven cars.
While automated driving technology is incredibly complex, it boils down to this: a self-driving car is able to both navigate road systems and sense potential obstacles without a driver controlling it. These cars are able to create and store a map of the world around them, and they use that map to determine the fastest and safest way to reach a destination — much like a GPS analyzes maps and traffic data to plan the best route.
Most self-driving cars are programmed to recognize other vehicles and pedestrians, but you may remember a 2018 news story in which a self-driving vehicle, with an operator inside, struck and killed a woman jaywalking. Due to the way it was configured, that vehicle could not recognize pedestrians unless they were on or near a crosswalk. As this story indicates, self-driving technology is not yet perfect, so operators of these vehicles should have the best car accident lawyer available to them if an accident does occur caused by self-driving component failure.
Many car manufacturers look forward to unveiling self-driving vehicles that are safe enough for everyday use. However, computer vision systems still are not superior to human drivers when it comes to analyzing the road. GPS also has its limitations, as you may know if you’ve ever been led astray by a malfunctioning system. Self-driving technology has come a long way, but it still needs to be refined before self-driving cars are made available to the general public.
While it will probably be a while before self-driving cars are available to the average person, automated-driving startups and established vehicle manufacturers alike are working toward making the self-driving dream a reality. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to be content with staying alert behind the wheel.