With recent advances in technology an automated future may be closer than anticipated. The thought of self-driving cars may seem like a concept sci-fi movie, but they are currently being tested in select cities across the country. One of the chosen locations is our very own city of Kirkland. A Lexus RX suburban has been cruising around the city to help test how the concept will come to play in real life. A recent article from Seattle Mag explores the futuristic idea.
Not to worry, the technology may be piloting the vehicles but they are only operating with a fully capable driver on board. Part of this is to see how the vehicles can adapt to their surroundings. Whether it be a pedestrian dashing across the street ahead or being involved in an accident, these cars will need to have advanced capabilities of responding to any and all circumstances. The testing being done in Kirkland aide in discovering problems that need to be addressed, and will contribute to researchers knowing when the cars might be ready.
Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle’s Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly have been longtime supporters of the automation. They agree that the benefits of self-driving vehicles far outweigh any potential problems.
When compared to airplanes it is hard to oppose this technology. Bruce Agnew of The Cascadia Center notes that “Planes are flying on autopilot technology because of previous crashes. The reality is that computers are safer than humans.” This perspective opens the possibility of reducing automobile crashes caused by human error, including incidents that occur due to driving under the influence.
Just as any new concept may seem too good to be true there are also many who find the technology dangerous. That is why the Society of Automotive Engineers have mapped out distinct levels of automation. With six varying levels, the different stages range from no automation to partial automation (like cruise control features that are currently used), all the way to full automation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lays out details about the levels here.
As these self-driving cars continue to make their way through streets across the country researchers will be able to give a more definitive answer on how soon they may be available. Meanwhile, testing the cars in Kirkland is one more reason to be proud of our dynamic region as we continue our reign as an industry leader.
Explore the full article from Seattle Mag here.