No longer a science fiction favourite, self-driving vehicles are here to stay – especially in Canada. Right on the cutting-edge of this revolution in the automobile industry, artificial intelligence is already taking the wheel, while drivers can relax during commutes and longer trips.
The race is on, and the runners include household names like BMW, GM, Nissan, Tesla, Toyota, Volvo, and even Uber. Related industries – like auto loans and insurance – are also gearing up for this exciting new stage, making sure that these innovations fit smoothly into family budgets.
How Self-Driving Cars Work
Encompassing a vast range of interrelated devices that exchange data among themselves, the Internet of Things (IoT) pervades our daily lives in devices like smartphones and coffee makers. It is also flourishing at the industrial scale, keeping the components of huge machines working smoothly.
In an autonomous vehicle, many complex systems intercommunicate constantly: video cameras and radar sensors keep track of other vehicles nearby, while pulses of infrared light can identify traffic lights, road signs, cyclists, and pedestrians accurately.
Regular GPS is far too vague for use by autonomous vehicles. Instead, they run far more sophisticated algorithms, pinpointing differences from landmarks as small as mailboxes on high-definition maps. The ‘brain’ of the vehicle – a central computer – reads this collected data and steers it along the best route from point A to point B.
Much of this advanced technology has been thoroughly road-tested for years, installed on regular cars for added convenience and safety. They include features that are common on many modern models, like:
- cruise control;
- assisted parking;
- Automatic brakes; and
- crash avoidance.
Progressing by leaps and bounds, autonomous driving technology is about to become fully embedded in our societies, offering countless advantages at the personal and commercial levels. Here are some of the benefits of driverless cars:
- fewer road accidents: predictions say that autonomous vehicles will reduce the number of deaths and injuries resulting from speeding and conditions, as well as aggression, distraction, and lack of experience, worsened by alcohol and drugs.
- fewer traffic jams: tapping the brakes to stay well behind the vehicle ahead can cause chain reactions, as all the drivers on the road brake as well. This domino effect can bring an entire vehicle flow to a halt. However, self driving cars avoid this trap by communicating their position, direction, and speed well in advance, avoiding the chain slowdowns that lead to gridlocks;
- lower fuel consumption: as the software in autonomous vehicles ensures that every car on the road knows the position and speed of the vehicles around it, foal-guzzling stop-and-go driving quickly vanishes, together with dangerous hard braking. As one vehicle starts to slow down, it signals this decision to the vehicles around it, reducing the impacts of certain speed-ups and slow-downs on fuel consumption.
- perfect for seniors, youngsters, and people with special needs: autonomous vehicles enhance the independence of people unable to drive themselves because of age or disabilities. They can be easily programmed to pick somebody up from a specific address, take them to another location, and then park and wait until it’s time to pick them up again, ensuring peace of mind for carers and convenience and comfort for users.
- added safety through self-parking: usually the most stressful part of any trip, parking is often a nightmare. But a self-driven car can simply drop its passengers at their destination, park itself in an open slot that’s not necessarily nearby, and then pick them up when they call for a ride. That means no more walking through parking lots in the rain or at night – in itself, this is a great reason to buy a self-driving vehicle.
The Road Ahead
Among the world’s leaders in the autonomous driving segment, Canada hosts several pilot projects that are testing driverless vehicles in Ontario. In parallel, transport Canada and other government agencies are busy developing standards and regulations for this sector.
Auto loans and insurance will also be keeping pace with the new demands of this segment. Although still an expensive novelty, there seems little doubt that driverless vehicles will fit into the car financing budgets of average Canadian consumers within a decade.