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The Future of Self-Driving Cars

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While flying cars are still a thing of the future, autonomous vehicles are making their way onto roads across America. We are at the very threshold where autonomous vehicles will be able to drive without human supervision, and become more prevalent in our everyday lives. Entering into a driverless era is not too difficult to imagine, considering our experience with the ride sharing economy. UBS, a Swiss financial services company, predicts that global ownership of cars will fall by 70 percent by the year 2050. Cars typically are unused 95 percent of the time they’re owned, so imagine if we could have a world where these cars are constantly in use via autonomous driving networks.

The use of self-driving cars would have a number of benefits to the economy, environment, and the overall safety of pedestrians. All autonomous vehicles will be electric, cutting out a huge portion of the harmful emissions that are pumped out everyday into our atmosphere. By using AI, they can even help with clearing congested roads while cutting back on traffic, allowing for a more efficient transportation system. These new transportation networks will effectively reshape cities as we know them, allowing for longer commute times and redefining the way we interact with retailing. Carmakers will also see drastic change, with cars no longer being sold to individuals, but rather fleet operators that will manage a large number of cars to be used in a geographical location.

These are all very realistic outcomes for autonomous vehicles, but hey are still located in a future undetermined. Right now, the technology behind them is still being developed to a point where it can be used safely and efficiently. Nonetheless, self-driving cars are in operation in several states, with companies like Uber, Google, Waymo, Ford, and Nvidia operating their own vehicles. Other key companies who are involved in autonomous vehicle technology include Apple, with CEO Tim Cook confirming that they are developing a self-driving car system. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced that all Tesla cars will be fully driverless within two years.

California in particular is leading the way in pushing for a future with autonomous vehicles. On Feb 26, the California DMV got approval to put self-driving cars on the road with no safety driver. A safety driver is a measure used for self-driving cars that would ensure a human could take over operation of the vehicle if the car’s AI made a mistake. However, in California, that is no longer the case. Starting April 2, self-driving cars will be in operation without any human drivers inside. Currently there will be two permits issued by the DMV for self-driving cars, including testing and commercial permits. The commercial permit will be geared towards companies who will be offering services to the public, like deliveries or autonomous taxis. These vehicles, however, will be monitored remotely by a human at all times, as per the law.

Since 2012, over 21 states have passed legislation dealing with self-driving cars. The technology behind them is a rare topic that has bipartisan support among politicians. The benefits to moving towards a driverless future are clear, it is just a matter of time until they become another normal way of life.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind, I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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