Over the past few years we’ve seen simple objects merge with technology to interesting effect. A wristwatch can now make and receive phone calls. A fridge has a screen that can display recipes, and even connect to Skype if you feel like chatting to a relative with your eggs and milk at eye level. In fact, you can now use the screen on your watch, to see inside your fridge when you’re at the supermarket (yes, weird but true). And despite all this being fascinating, the one that really gets me is the concept of a ‘driverless car’. Google recently announced plans to commercialise their self-driving car project, which has been in development over the past 7 years. If this goes ahead, driverless cars could soon be a very normal sight.
An absolute plethora of questions and concerns surround self-driving vehicles, but put simply, how do they operate? In steps big data. A ‘smartcar’ is essentially be an ENORMOUS data-collection engine, with data being used to configure traffic congestion avoidance, GPS systems, and safety through exchanging data with other vehicles to predict how many cars are around at any time and much more. But the cars are not just lumps of files, they’re the result of learning algorithms, and catalogued information based on previous experience. For example, a car may not initially know the difference between a glass bottle or a newspaper, but by absorbing more data through driving and real experience, it may learn.
So what does all of this mean for the consumer? According to Google, the self-driving car will improve road safety, with ‘94% of accidents in the U.S. involving human error’. Uber recently made waves on the self-driving scene by enticing consumers to their new driverless cars by making them completely free. Personally, I think I’d pay the $8 for my ride until I’m sure the things are safe, but the idea of an Uber without the awkward chit chat is appealing. Is there a future for both the cars with and without drivers? The concept of having no drivers on the road does seem farfetched, but possibly not as much as it once did.
(P.S., clearly some still see the merit in some driver/passenger banter)