How far away are we from fully self-driving vehicles?

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Driverless cars used to be the sort of thing you’d only see in a sci-fi film – but since 2018 they’re becoming a reality. However, when it comes to fully autonomous cars how realistic is it to expect a full rollout of them in 2020? Despite efforts from many of the leading names in tech and in automaking, fully autonomous vehicles are still out of reach except in special trial programs. You can buy a vehicle that will automatically brake for you when it anticipates a collision or one that helps keep you in your lane like a Tesla Model S

Self-driving vehicles use advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), which are electronic systems that assist the driver while driving or parking. ADAS is enabled through radar scanners, sensors and cameras, integrated into the vehicles central electronic control modules are fundamental blocks driving towards fully autonomous cars.

What are the benefits of self-driving vehicles?

Recent studies have shown that self-driving cars help reduce the pollution emitted by vehicles. Due to autonomous capabilities such as consistent driving speeds and keeping a measure of the distance between vehicles can reduce unnecessary braking and re-acceleration. Also, most self-driving vehicles manufactured to date are electronic or have a hybrid engine further reducing pollution by reducing or lessening the use of fuel.

So, where are they?

Much of the problem is the need for lots of training data. The ideal way to train a self-driving vehicle would be to show it billions of hours of footage of real driving and use that to teach the computer good driving behaviour. But collecting data for a self-driving vehicle is expensive. And since some events are rare — witnessing a vehicle incident ahead, say, or encountering debris on the road — it’s possible for the vehicle to be out of its depth because it has encountered a situation.

So how far away are we away from self-driving vehicles?

In some sense we have been close on self-driving cars for years now; A company called Waymo has been running fully autonomous driving tests since 2017 in Arizona. Cruise delayed the 2019 launch of its autonomous taxi service but thinks it might happen in 2020. Companies like Tesla have made great progress with their auto-pilot system, but companies hesitate to put their cars on the road when there’s any chance they aren’t ready. They are aware any mistakes made will be hugely damaging to their business.

Self-driven cars are on their way. They are closer than they were a year ago. When they’ll get here is anyone’s guess.

Would you feel comfortable getting behind the wheel of a self-driven vehicle?