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It seems that some people are enthralled by the thought of a self-driving car, while others may choose to walk rather than get into an autonomous vehicle. Ford has been having trials of their driverless vehicles, with a view to introducing driverless taxis around 2021.
While there are already some driverless vehicles on the road, especially in the United States, accidents have been reported… but reluctantly. At the moment, Google and other manufacturers don’t always seem to be able to predict how the driverless car will perform in an unexpected or non-programmed situation.
When the company decided to show how the car worked to a selected audience, the vehicle behaved immaculately, if a little sedately, until confronted with a pedestrian. All the driving and space age components may be able to keep the car travelling on roads where there were other vehicles, but when faced with a person, the car just kept going.
Ready for the Public?
While Ford are still working on perfecting their autonomous vehicles for use as a taxi, companies like Uber want to have their own driverless cars on the road a lot sooner, perhaps because it will save them from paying drivers the minimum wage. It is too soon to say whether Ford will achieve the kind of automated vehicle that they hope will be a regular on roads, but you do have to wonder how many people would be happy as a passenger in such a vehicle.
The Ford car uses Lidar technology, sensors which can gauge the distance between vehicles and deal with most traffic situations. The car is designed to move at a steady pace and to cope with most things a driver would experience. The 3D tracking sensor gauges the size and proximity of other vehicles and reacts accordingly. It can judge the nearness of other vehicles, and their size, within an 80 metre radius, something impossible for a human driver.
Once the information is fed through to the car, it can make necessary adjustments to its movements to cope with the situation, using preprogrammed information from the vehicle manufacturers. Nevertheless, the vehicle does have its drawbacks. One area where the Lidar technology that powers the vehicle needs improving is in its detection of, and reaction to pedestrians. When it was in the unexpected situation of having a pedestrian in its path, the vehicle made no attempt to pass but simply slowed its speed. The reaction to what was happening on the road was fine, until it had to deal with an actual human, rather than weigh up the size and expected movements of another car. Of course, teething troubles are to be expected, and the car was sent back to the workshop for further improvements. It’s too early to say whether Ford or any other manufacturers involved in producing driverless vehicles will create one that would make the grade as a taxi.
Under present circumstances, it’s likely that most people would not be inclined to ride in one of those taxis, no matter how cheap they might be!