Future of Self-Driving Cars

Alyssa Budhoo, Enkhtsatsral Ganbold, Sandra Timoteo, Alex Zaccaria


For the past hundred years, innovation the automotive sector has brought major technological advances, leading to safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles. But for the most part, since Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line, the changes have been incremental. Now, in the early decades of the 21st century, the industry appears to be on the cusp of revolutionary change—with potential to dramatically reshape not just the competitive landscape but also the way we interact with vehicles and the future design of our roads and cities. The revolution, when it comes, will be engendered by the advent of autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles. And the timing may be sooner than we think.

Automotive History

The history of transportation can be linked back to the B.C era (Bellis, 2014). Since then we have been able to witness how transportation has developed from a simple horse and carriage to the first official automobile to the future of what our cars will look like when our grandchildren are ready to drive.

Provided at the end of this paragraph is a timeline of robot car history. It features Ernst Dickmann - he is a German pioneer of dynamic computer vision and of driverless cars. This link highlights how the driverless car came about: http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/robotcars.html

Why Self-Driving Cars?

When automobiles first came about, many people had different ideas of what self-driving cars would look like. There was this idea of convenience and luxury about having a self-driving car. Making the road trip enjoyable for everyone. Some people of the 1950s and 60s were worried that we'd have too much leisure in the future. So much leisure time that we'd want to commit suicide.

"Mankind's major struggle [in the future] will be against boredom," an article in the January 4, 1959 issue of Parade magazine claimed, "with the suicide rate zooming as people lose the race" (Novak, 2014).

The reality however, has proven to be quite different.

Self-driving cars are not being created for leisure, comfort and convenience, but for safety and proper function - work. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents (Rosen, 2012). There are about 30.000 deaths on US roads every year (ITS America, 2013). Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 4–34. And of the 6 million crashes, 93 percent are attributable to human error (KPMG & CAR - Center for Automotive Research, 2012). In addition, self-driving cars are not being designed to allow one to nap in the back seat and watch a movie while the car navigates the daily commute. They are being designed to get rid of the boring parts, like long drives (National Journal, 2014).

Current Trends/Developments in Self-Driving Cars

Current trends are unsustainable over the long-term, and new alternatives are emerging—not just from within the automotive sector, but from a host of new players and unlikely suspects. From universities, such as MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia, to leading high-tech companies, such as Google and Intel, to start-ups, the shape of personal mobility is changing (KPMG & CAR - Center for Automotive Research, 2012)

Current Developments in self-driving cars:

  • Sensor Based Solutions:

The automotive industry is currently developing sensor-based solutions to increase vehicle safety in speed zones where driver error is most common: at lower speeds, when the driver is stuck in traffic, and at higher speeds, when the driver is cruising on a long stretch of highway. These systems, known as Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS), use a combination of advanced sensors, such as stereo cameras and long- and short-range RADAR, combined with actuators, control units, and integrating software, to enable cars to monitor and respond to their surroundings. Some of these are already available now such as lane-keeping and warning systems, adaptive cruise control, back-up alerts, and parking assistance (KPMG & CAR - Center for Automotive Research, 2012).

  • Connectivity Based Solutions:

Connected-vehicle systems use wireless technologies to communicate in real time from vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and from vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), and vice versa. Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC), which uses radio waves, is currently the leading wireless medium for V2V communication (KPMG & CAR - Center for Automotive Research, 2012).

Companies Making Self-Driving Cars

General Motor and Nissan are furthest along, but Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo have also begun testing driverless systems and Google's self-driving cars have clocked over 400,000 miles on California public roads.
These are just some examples of companies that are developing self-driving cars:





Current Predictions and Issues to Consider

According to some articles, vehicle design will change significantly. For vehicles made specifically to move slowly around city roads only, the design specifications will be very different than those for vehicles expected to travel at high speed on freeways. Safety specifications will be very different as well (Forbes, 2014).

  • Autonomous vehicles promise to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions while increasing safety.
  • The transition to fully self-driving cars, however, will be gradual, as progressively capable systems take control of individual functions over time. The earliest features will most likely include self-parking, traffic jam assistance, and freeway cruising – each of which will require regulatory changes.
  • These technologies have the potential to dramatically reduce accidents, but consumer and government acceptance is likely to be hard-won. Autonomous driving will also benefit if infrastructure providers install smart city technologies, such as coordinated traffic signals and smart parking systems.

In the study, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars—Not If, But When,” IHS Automotive predicts that worldwide sales of self-driving cars will grow from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. There should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035. By 2050, nearly all cars will have some sort of self-driving component. About 29% of those will be in North America, followed by China at 24% and Western Europe at 20% (IHS, 2014). This amount gives a good idea of how popular self-driving cars will be in the next 10-20 years.

One issue being discussed is human driving versus computer driving. Some people are concerned that reaction time of computers will not be as good as reaction time of humans. Therefore, making self-driving cars not as safe as everyone thought. However, the facts have proven otherwise. Over 40 per cent of fatal traffic crashes involve alcohol, distraction, drugs or fatigue, but self-driven vehicles wouldn't fall prey to such human failings, suggesting the potential for at least a 40 per cent reduction in fatal crashes. Crashes can also be due to speeding, aggressive driving, over-compensation, inexperience, slow reaction times, inattention and various other human driver shortcomings, the report noted, suggesting that computers could also reduce those too (Griffiths, 2013).

Another topic that is not really being considered is city planning. Self-driving cars address many of the safety and travel efficiency objections that Smart Growth advocates often make about road expansion, or the use of limited street space. Planners need to better define in what environments bike and pedestrian-oriented designs are still appropriate even when we can solve our congestion problems with self-driving cars. Self-driving cars coupled with "smart intersections" that communicate with vehicles to let them pass without traditional stoplight timing could result in less congestion, but may speed up cars in places where cyclists and pedestrians are competing for space. The cars will be faster, but also safer to be around. The question is whether a more efficient auto network outweighs the negative impacts to other parts of the urban environment (Bottigheimer, 2014).

What does the future of self-driving cars hold? Our conclusions.

According to all of the research we have conducted we believe that self-driving cars will benefit in the following ways:

  • Increase of safety - there will be fewer accidents on the road
  • Better road utilization - driving with enough gaps between the cars, computers at the wheel can maintain tight gaps between cars. This means more cars on existing road way with road safety.
  • Saving fuel – computer can be adjusted to work in a way to save fuel, such as the way the car breaks can save fuel.
  • Greater productivity - time less spent on getting to destinations.

In conclusion, we feel that self-driving cars will benefit our future society in regards to safer roads and safer drivers.


All Work and No Play Makes Self-Driving Cars a Dull Ploy. (n.d.). Gizmodo. Retrieved February 17, 2014, from http://www.gizmodo.in/science/All-Work-and-No-Play-Makes-Self-Driving-Cars-a-Dull-Ploy/articleshow/30579051.cms

Bellis, M. (2014, March 5). The History of Transportation. About.com Inventors. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors

ITS America. (2013). The Connected VehicleCrash Avoidance and the Benefits to Transportation Safety, Mobility and the Economy. Retrieved from ITS America: http://www.itsa.org/advocacy/safety-and-connected-vehicles-

KPMG & CAR - Center for Automotive Research. (2012). Self-driving cars: The next revolution. Delaware: KPMG LLP.

Research, N. (2013, November 13). How Self-Driving Cars Will Change The World. Forbes. Retrieved February 21, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/pikeresearch/2013/11/13/how-self-driving-cars-will-change-the-world

Rosen, R. J. (2012, August 9). Google's Self-Driving Cars: 300,000 Miles Logged, Not a Single Accident Under Computer Control. Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/googles-self-driving-cars-300-000-miles-logged-not-a-single-accident-under-computer-control/260926/

Self-driving cars are coming, and they could change everything we know about cities - Greater Greater Washington. (n.d.). Self-driving cars are coming, and they could change everything we know about cities - Greater Greater Washington. Retrieved February 11, 2014, from http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/21491/self-driving-cars-are-coming-and-they-could-change-everything-we-know-about-cities/

Self-Driving Cars Moving into the Industry's Driver's Seat. (n.d.). IHS Online Pressroom |. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from http://press.ihs.com/press-release/automotive/self-driving-cars-moving-industrys-drivers-seat

Simonite, T. (2013, October 25). Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520746/data-shows-googles-robot-cars-are-smoother-safer-drivers-than-you-or-i/

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