Predicting the future is hard. Yet many people talk about self-driving cars as if they will become reality in a few years. Unfortunately, the current reality is that we are far away from commercialization of fully self-driving cars. Google is the closest, yet its self-driving car technology has some serious limitations:
- It requires an attentive human driver to drive safely. This largely defeats the point of a self-driving car.
- It doesn’t work if there is heavy snow or rain.
- The car only works in areas with special 3-D maps, which are currently expensive to create.
- The system can’t handle construction zones.
- Because they drive in a non-human manner, the cars get rear-ended more often than human drivers.
- There are other situations where the cars may have problems – left turns without a light and heavy traffic, potholes, pulling aside for emergency vehicles, obeying directions from a police officer, ice on the road surface, cyclists doing a track stand, etc. etc.
I find it interesting that so many people have been sucked into the idea that self-driving cars will be an imminent revolution that will disrupt our lives. Mostly, there are many people who want to believe that technology will disrupt our lives in a positive way. There is no differentiation between technologies with major technical obstacles (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning) and technologies with few obstacles (e.g. cloud computing, social media, smartphone apps, over-the-top video, etc.).