Driverless cars: would you take your hands off the wheel?

Last updated: 13 December 2019

It will come as little surprise to most of us that the majority of people consider themselves to be ‘better than average drivers’. The mentality of most motorists is that they usually do the right thing, which might explain why driving causes almost daily cases of ‘road rage’. Despite our unerring self-belief, research has shown that around 90% of motor accidents are believed to be caused by human error.

If this is indeed the case, then the most straightforward way of reducing casualties on the road is obvious: take humans out of the equation altogether. Research published in September by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers suggests that this is not as far-fetched as it might seem. The report claims that by 2040, driverless cars will account for around 75% of the traffic on the world’s roads.

If this is true, then the ‘driverless revolution’ will be powered by M2M technology. Sensors in every car and at thousands of points on every road and intersection will need to communicate with one another in fractions of a second in order to prevent collisions and keep traffic running smoothly.  Both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications will need to work seamlessly in order to keep road users and pedestrians safe. Our recent link-up with Audi, which sees Gemalto enabling 4G-powered in-car infotainment systems, is exactly the kind of technology which could soon be used to let drivers take their hands off the wheel.

There would also be additional benefits beyond the obvious convenience of the service: traffic flows could be improved and congestion reduced, while driving styles could also be adapted to make traveling more fuel-efficient. But will these factors be enough to convince drivers to sit back and put their feet up?

Google clearly thinks so, as it has already obtained licenses to trial driverless cars in the US states of Nevada and California. The general public may need more convincing though. It takes a leap of faith to put the lives of you and your family in the hands of an algorithm, and for the technology to be a success, Joe Public will need to be completely convinced of the efficacy of both M2M and driverless technology working with seamless integration.

Bill Snyder is typical of this school-of-thought. Bill argues that most computers will crash on a weekly, or even daily, basis, and that he would be far from comfortable entrusting his life to a machine. In his post, Bill touches upon the issue of Spam and malware, and this raises some pertinent questions about how the security of driverless cars will be controlled. M2M security is already highly advanced, but until these solutions are widely adopted it won’t be possible for them to prove their reliability.

Would you be happy to take your hands off the wheel?