Will Fully Automated Vehicles ever reach Mass Market Adoption?
A self-driving car is not a new concept. Since 2009, Google launched its self-driving car project and technology giants such as Tesla, Audi etc have also been investing heavily into the autonomous car market. However, till date, we have yet to witness the mass market adoption of fully automated vehicles despite successful trials of a driverless service by Waymo, Cruise, Zoox etc. For self-driving vehicles to be a norm on public roads, the following challenges have to be overcomed first:
Technical and behavioural barriers
Driverless cars have not yet reached Level 4 and 5, meaning the car still requires input from passengers and / or its full autonomy is only restricted to a certain area. Furthermore, the lack of the reliability of technologies in adverse weather conditions is a huge obstacle for AV manufacturers to overcome too. For example, the lidar, camera, and sensors can be easily obstructed by snow, dirt, and debris, resulting in the AV’s inability to function properly. Poor detection of degraded lane markings and lack of a strong GPS signal can further hinder the proper functioning of an AV.
Furthermore, China has a complex driving environment due to a dense population, mixed traffic and unstandardised traffic lights and road signs. The AV’s programming system must be able to react to aggressive driving behaviour and be expanded to incorporate all types of signage. The optimisation of AV decision algorithms will thus require more effort and training before it is able to adapt to China’s hectic road environment.
Gaining the public’s trust and familiarity with AV technology is critical for the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles. The public does not understand how to best utilize the systems’ abilities to maximize safety, posing a threat to not only themselves, but also their surrounding environment. Furthermore, the technical and behavioural barriers creates a lack of trust in the reliability and safety of AVs. Therefore, no matter how far technology advances, the lack of trust among the public can pose a huge threat to the AV industry.
Developing a self-driving vehicle, especially for Level 4 and 5 vehicles, involves high R&D cost, lofty hardware and software development costs, sensor integration cost, as well as a long trial test period before the vehicle can reach the commercial market. Furthermore, given the unclear demand for robotaxis due to riders’ concerns such as safety and cost, further hinders the growth of the AV market.
In conclusion, addressing these challenges to create an improved automated driving experience for consumers and promote consumer acceptance is critical in transitioning into the mass adoption of AV. The reliability of existing sensors and software needs to be improved in order to boost consumer confidence in the safety of AVs. Only then, will self-driving vehicles be a norm on public roads.
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