Driverless, or autonomous, cars have been in the news a lot this past year. Essentially it is a car that can drive itself with no help needed from a human driver. There are many people who believe this is the next big development in the automotive industry. We are still several years off from driverless cars being fully implemented on the road. According to a plan laid out in the U.K. last year driverless cars are to be implemented fully and on the road by 2025.
Driverless cars are expected to improve safety on the road by removing human error on the road, and reduce fuel emissions. According to a study by the US Department of Transportation, driver error is the critical factor in 94% of crashes on the road. By removing human error as a factor many of these crashes could be avoided. Driverless cars also allow for a large potential decrease in the use of fuel in transportation. The US Department of Energy estimates that the impact of driverless cars can lead to up to a 90% decrease in use of transportation energy.
These autonomous vehicles could end up hurting the current auto giants. With the introduction of these cars on the road it will become easier to use services like Lyft and Uber and we could see a large increase in the use of these service. Some auto companies are trying to anticipate this large increase. The American auto company, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft last year. Ford Motor Company is also trying to anticipate the introduction of driverless cars into the market. Ford has already begun applying for patents for their driverless car technology and invested $1 billion in an artificial intelligence company tasked with developing software for autonomous vehicles.
There are many who hold reservations about the practicality of driverless cars. There is no question that the technology to have a car drive itself on the road through all conditions does not yet exist. It needs to be developed and refined over the next several years. Another major complication is the risk of one of these cars being hacked. If a car communicates with the outside world, which many autonomous vehicles likely will, these communications can be manipulated.
There are still many kinks that need to be worked with the production of truly autonomous cars. Maybe in the near future we will see these worked out.