17th Dec, 2016
We’re living in an age where there is literally more processing power in our pockets than there used to be in entire rooms full of computers. As if to complete that vision of modern science-fiction (that’s no longer fiction), self-driving cars are joining electric ones in finally becoming a reality. Here, we’re taking a quick look at the huge changes they’re promising to bring to the motor industry – whether for better or worse!
Human error has always been a major factor in collisions – a recent US study estimated that over 80% of car accidents are due to human error. And let’s face it; much as we like to think ourselves immune, there are all sorts of ways for us to accidentally scrap our cars. Deliberately driving using drink or drugs, speeding, or blatantly ignoring road laws are all amongst the most obvious ways to cause a crash. But there also more innocent ways to do so too, like missing important road signs or driving when overtired, both of which could also see your beloved vehicle ending up in a car breaker’s yard.
Computers aren’t physically capable of being prone to such distractions. They use algorithms to determine their stopping distances, and constantly measure their distance from other cars. They even ‘talk’ to each other to avoid accidents, which already makes them more sociable and considerate drivers than some on your morning commute…
Some of the most obvious groups of people who stand to benefit are the elderly and disabled, who would enjoy increased mobility with none of the usual dangers they’d risk getting behind a wheel. On a similar note, driverless cars could potentially take some pressure off public transport systems in some cities, freeing up space on otherwise crowded trains, for example. What’s more, they could bring a tangible financial benefit, with fewer car accidents saving on hospital resources and car insurance cost (not to mention accident recovery services in the case of the scrap cars themselves).
Having said all this, the effect on the economy might not be purely positive. Self-driving cars have the potential to eliminate a lot of jobs in the public transport industry, which could in turn actually end up having a negative impact on the economy. What’s more, for all their immunity to traditional human errors, it doesn’t mean that the self-driving software will never make a mistake. Right now, they still can’t read human traffic signals – like those used by cyclists or traffic officers – which is a major flaw in the case of an accident. What’s more, their lasers and sensors could be vulnerable to adverse weather such as heavy rain or storms, severely impacting their ability to keep their drivers safe.
Even when they’re supposedly working perfectly, no software is ever completely immune to bugs or loopholes, as anyone who’s ever owned a smartphone can attest. Unlike smartphones however, a software bug (or even simply a misinterpreted command) in self-driving cars has the very real risk of actually causing a loss of life. There are also legal issues – in the event of an accident, who holds responsibility? The driver of the car, or its manufacturer? Maybe the developer who installed its software? Whichever way you look at it, these don’t seem like questions that can be easily answered.
Whatever you think about the merits or dangers of self-driving cars, they’re still quite a long way from widespread deployment on our roads. Even though some prototypes are now in their advanced stages, once they hit the roads they’re still expected to be massively expensive. Some of the advantages self-driving cars offer actually depend on them interacting with each other, which means until they’re in properly widespread use, drivers are probably still going to be very wary of them. All this means that you’re unlikely to see the same sudden explosion enjoyed by electric cars.
It’s all good news for us though – whatever you drive, electric, self-driving, petrol or diesel, we’re still happy to handle scrapping your car for you. Just enter your details into our website to receive an instant scrap car quote, and we’ll take it from there!