How soon will we be driving next to a driverless vehicle?

Liang Hwei  |  Singapore
Published 2015-10-13 12:00:44

This article originally appeared on Vulcan Post

How soon will Singaporeans move around in driverless cars?

The concept of a driverless vehicle has been the talk of the town since the Smart Nation vision was revealed. The initiative, overseen by CARTS (Committee of Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore), is one of the manifestations of the vision that Singaporeans have to look forward to. And with companies like Google pursuing the same technology, there has been some hype over the possibility of self-driving cars hitting the streets of Singapore soon.

However, you don’t have to worry about driving next to a driverless car just yet.

In an article written by TODAY on the latest advancement in autonomous vehicles, it shared that a driverless vehicle will be made accessible to the public in Gardens by the Bay this December. The vehicle, which can fit up to 10 people, will be open for a two-week trial, taking a 1.5km route from 4pm to 6pm daily.

The catch is that it currently travels at a speed of up to 8km/hour. To put this in perspective: if you run 2.4km in 15 minutes, you’re hitting around 9.6km/hour, which means you can run faster than this vehicle can drive.

The speed that the driverless vehicles moves at is capped as a safety precaution. While they are built to stop in the presence of an obstruction, the speed at which they react to one is still a concern, and the cars simply aren’t intuitive enough to react as fast as a human driver who sees a person crossing their path can. A human driver’s problem solving skills may be flawed and prone to mistakes, but their reaction skills are still faster and more complex than this brand new technology. And until we manage to have the technology mimic, or exceed, a human’s ability to drive, they’re not likely to take over all the driving just yet.

Think a more advanced form of auto-cruising, where human drivers still have to react in the most extreme circumstances.

Currently, the autonomous vehicles are still in a testing phase, with full-scale deployment possibility starting in the middle of next year. However, the use of these vehicles are still limited to specific, low-traffic or no-traffic conditions, where speed isn’t a main concern for vehicles. Google’s self-driving cars are slated for completion in 2020, and even then the technology may not be completely refined.

It’ll probably be 2020 or later before our taxis or buses face any threat of being overtaken by self-driving vehicles, and until then, it’ll be interesting to see how the human element melds with this new technology to help it integrate with roads full of human drivers, human pedestrians, and human mistakes. In the meantime, treat your cab drivers and bus drivers well, and drive safely.

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