Artificial intelligence is arguably the most disruptive piece of technology that we’re currently developing. There are many aspects of life that could change drastically once it becomes a mainstream product. In a lot of these aspects, artificial intelligence, when coupled with robotics, may even completely replace their human counterparts in certain industries.
One aspect that comes to mind is that of driving. And with the way that so many tech companies seem to be putting a significant amount of time and research into developing a fully autonomous car, it would seem that they are completely adamant about rolling out such a product.
This sounds like good logic, insofar as the AI and the connection of the car to the internet is stable. But, unfortunately, things aren’t as simple as we might want them to be. The best tech that we currently have is only capable of Level 4 automation.
This level of automation is where vehicles are capable of operating in a self-driving mode, but they are restricted to both the state’s legislation — which effectively limits their area of operation to small towns that act as test beds for the technology — as well as the fact that they still require some form of human intervention to activate the vehicle’s self-driving mode.
What Exactly Is The Problem That Self-Driving Cars Currently Face?
From an analytics standpoint, the primary limitation of self-driving cars that are stuck at level 4 automation is that they are currently constrained to operate within a small town. This means that this is a small area from which they are able to gather data. Now, take note that in order for a car to be capable of self-regulation and direction, it needs to be able to assess itself and its environment in real time.
We are talking about an insane amount of data that needs to be processed into workable information. And while artificial intelligence will, without a doubt, be able to process this much data into workable information, this is only applicable to the area that it has already been able to map. Using a mileage tracking app to see how much distance the car has covered is all well and good, but there’s no replacement for a larger network of roads.
Now, since the car cannot switch itself to automated mode on its own, the area still needs to be mapped by human personnel and interfaced with the computers of the vehicle. Though, the more that we’re able to optimize artificial intelligence, this should become less and less of a problem given that AI has the capability to store and interpret a lot of data in a small amount of time.
From a reliability perspective, it’s also important to consider the fact that self-driving cars will also have to be able to communicate with one another in order to avoid collisions. So far, the Internet of Things has been the prime medium through which test vehicles are able to share information with each other. IoT is a powerful tool which will even allow self-driving vehicles to seamlessly integrate with third-party programs to help provide better insight into its condition and to notify its owner of its status.
But one problem with using IoT as a medium is that it is still reliant on whether or not nodes in a network are able to establish a secure and stable connection to the internet. Any loss of connection, even for a moment, also means a loss of control.
And as we know all too well, a loss of control of a vehicle will almost always result in an accident. Now, consider the fact that during adverse weather, a lot of connections are interrupted and weakened. Until tech companies are able to find a stronger, more reliable way that can enable self-driving cars to communicate with each other, then their use will be limited. This also undermines the rationale behind creating self-driving cars to begin with — to replace human drivers on the road in order to completely eliminate human error.
From a security standpoint, as we evolve our technology, so do unscrupulous elements. While there hasn’t been a case of it happening yet, a self-driving car can be susceptible to cyber attacks. This is a frightening thought, but it is also one that we should be wary of when as we continue to develop our technology. The fact that hackers are able to carry out successful cyber attacks against bigger institutions should be a constant concern as a compromised vehicle can easily turn from a mode of transportation into a devastating weapon.
From a financial standpoint, you won’t be seeing any fully autonomous cars driving around any time soon, as these are more expensive than you might assume them to be. Besides the car itself, the cost of maintaining servers is going to keep self-driving cars from becoming mass-produced. This high cost is an important detail to consider because if tech companies are unable to mass-produce these autonomous vehicles, then the time and effort spent on developing the technology will have been wasted. Very few people will buy an autonomous car if the price is not right.
Though, it’s not all bad. Despite all these issues that the technology currently faces, it is not lacking support from either the developers or the community. Some states have even preemptively set up templates for legislation regarding self-driving cars. Even though it is plagued by so many problems, I think we can all agree that we’re excited for this tech nonetheless.