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Can SA Expect Driveless Cars In The Near Future?

Author: Melissa Cohen
Date: 2017-11-20
Are driveless vehicles the way forward? Studies have confirmed that by 2030, 60% of US drivers will drive driveless cars, but what about SA?
Over the past few years, the motor vehicle industry has advanced significantly with driveless cars making their appearance on the road. Top vehicle brands such as Ford, GM, Tesla, Lyft and Google are making driveless cars a reality. It is estimated that by 2030, over 60% of US vehicle sales will be made up of driveless cars. With all the hype surrounding these "superhuman-like" vehicles, will South Africa ever experience these models?
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What Makes These Wheels Turn? 

Imagine a vehicle without a steering wheel, human driver and a brake pedal. Now don't imagine because this is exactly how a driveless vehicle works. The vehicle doesn't need any of these features normally associated with a regular car, because they are able to recognise the world around them. Each vehicle has a variety of sensors in order to gather data about the environment. Many driveless cars have the following features:
  • Cameras;
  • Radar;
  • Lasers and Ultrasonic Sensors;
  • GPS and Mapping.
These features assist the vehicle when determining the position of the car in the environment.

Google's Waymo Self-Driving Car

At the beginning of this year, Google announced that they will be launching an electric, self-driving vehicle that will cut carbon emissions by almost a gigaton per year. In order for these vehicles to get a feel of their environment, they need to be driven around in order to log the data of the environment. Road signs and street lamps are all recorded in the car's memory and assist the vehicle when driving. According to an article by Huffington Post, Google's car drove over two million miles and has only had one fault accident. Human drivers have had a few accidents with Waymo vehicles.
"Waymo’s vehicles adhere to the letter of traffic law, leading them to brake for things they are legally supposed to brake for (e.g., pedestrians approaching crosswalks). Since human drivers are not used to this lawful behavior, it leads to a higher rate of rear-end collisions (where the human driver is at-fault)."

Do People Trust These Vehicles? 

Humans are creatures of habit, thus we don't adapt to change that well. Whenever something new is introduced into society, many people take a while to approve it. According to the 2017 Deliotte study, three out of four Americans don't trust self-drive motor vehicles. People reacted the same to the first introduction of air travel. People need to understand that self-driving motor vehicles never drink and drive or text and drive. These vehicles are safer, will reduce traffic congestion, and will allow drivers to do other things will being driven around.
While there are still drivers around you on the road, get car insurance today 

Will Driveless Cars Work In SA? 

Driveless cars are soon to be a staple on roads around the world in the next decade, however for South Africa things could be a bit different. South Africa has managed to keep up with electric vehicles, however driveless cars are a bit more tricky. The problem with battery operated vehicles is that the infrastructure isn't there. Long trips are impossible in electric cars in SA because there aren't any recharge centres on the journey. South Africa is far behind other countries when it comes to infrastructure. There have been mixed comments surrounding driveless cars and South Africa. In order for driveless cars to drive safely, they use their sensors to pick up sign boards and the environment. The problem with South Africa is that in many areas, roads are not completed and sign boards have been vandalised and destroyed. This making it difficult for the vehicle's sensors to read the environment.

Positives Vs Negatives Of Driveless Cars In SA

We take a look at the positives and negatives of driveless cars if they had to come to South Africa. Take a look at some of our findings:
Positives and Negatives Of Driveless Cars In South Africa
Positives Negatives
Road accidents will decrease because inebriated drivers won't be behind the wheel. This will reduce the risk of human errors due to lack of driving skills and drunk driving.  Although these vehicles would be great for traffic, the cost will be exorbitant. Not many people will be able to afford them.
You won't have to worry about parking or finding a parking because your vehicle will do it for you.  At the end of the day, technology could fail and this could be very dangerous.
Traffic, the majority of the time is caused by human error. Traffic will be reduced as the cars will be in control of the traffic. There will be no spectator-value in the event of an accident. Insurance could be much higher for the vehicle. Who is at fault during an accident?
 These vehicles use sensors in order to navigate sticky situations without getting frustrated. Cyber hacking is a thing. Hackers might be able to hack your vehicle and either steal it or be able to control it.
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