I really like the idea of self driving cars. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving, but I don’t like the mental effort required to drive. And if you think about it, humans are the worst when it comes to driving. Always talking on their phone or texting. So why not take that away from them? It would definitely make the open road a safer place to be. And this is exactly what Audi is trying to do. They have just unveiled the world’s first production car to offer Level 3 autonomy. What is level 3 exactly? According to Audi, it means that the driver doesn’t need to supervise anything at all. So long as the car stays within the guidelines. And the guidelines, in this case are that the car cannot exceed 37 mph (or 60 km for the rest of the world). Which is actually moderately fast.
Well… moderately fast if you’re driving in a city. Obviously not that fast for highway driving, which is where I would personally want to use it. Audi says this will give you an opportunity to do what you want to do when you’re driving. For example, read the newspaper, or get caught up on those pesky emails. Whatever it is, you can do it while the car drives for itself. Have a look at the video below for more information. It looks pretty cool. Note – the video is not cool, the Audi is.
I think this is really neat because it’s using artificial intelligence. AI scans the road and traffic for various obstacles, and adjusts the car in order to determine what to do. So you can literally sit back and relax. It will also let you know when it’s your turn to take over. So you can’t get out of the drivers seat. Picture this – you are driving through your city, on your way to work. You look over to the car next to you and see someone sitting in the front seat reading a newspaper. In Ontario, I would get a ticket for distracted driving. Which leads me to another big question – how will this be managed?
By managed, I mean by the Transportation authorities. Whatever they are called where you live. The organization that regulates driving, for lack of a better term. According to Audi, the only way that you can have one of these is if it’s allowed in your area. Because this is the first level 3 car, this is going to mean some big changes for some jurisdictions. Which is kind of what I think about when I write articles about driver-less cars. In order to adapt to the technology our systems have to change. We are living in a world that is designed purely for people to drive cars. But that isn’t the way of the future.
Call me cliche, but whenever I write about this kind of technology, I always think of Back to the Future. Why? Simply because Doc Brown makes the statement “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads”. And I think that’s the way we need to think about this type of technology now. Obviously, that’s not to say that we don’t need roads, that is a bit of a far fetched statement, but we need to change our thinking. The hard part will be adapting the infrastructure in order to fit this new type of technology. And subsequently convincing the authorities to allow the technology and to also help change the system. It’s going to be a big job.