Autonomous Vehicles and the Human Factor

I had the good fortune to ride in a Tesla Model 3. This was a rental my daughter had provided as a birthday gift for her life partner, who had said he would like to experience it.

What an amazing vehicle! It was like witting in the new space craft. No dashboard dials, gauges, speedometers, etc. Just a simple touchscreen in the middle. (I am not trying to make this a Tesla commercial, but it is the only one I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. ) Here comes the really amazing part, the autonomous operation of this vehicle.

When we were ready to roll, we got in and were shown various features including no-hands driving or autopilot. The car senses where the lane is, what is around it, and based on GPS, location, speed, traffic signals, and so much more that when we drive, we take for granted. The vehicle will even change lanes without human intervention. Simply use the turn signal to indicate where you want to go, and the vehicle takes over, moving to the new lane when safe to do so.

Parallel parking? No problem. Parking in a typical parking lot space? No problem. Someone parked too close to you and you cannot access the door? Just use your phone to let the car know you want to get in and it will roll itself out of the space for you. It will even come to you when summoned. I saw this as when my daughter was ready to leave, they walked down the street, summoned the car, and there it went to meet them and pick them up.

In My View

I know this article sounds like a plug for Tesla, and again, it is only because this is the only autonomous vehicle I have personally interacted with. Many of you are probably saying that other cars can do similar things and have some similar features. You are right. The point of this article is to heighten the awareness that these vehicles are out there, today, and we are interacting with them though we may not know it.

Now comes the wrinkle – Humans. The technology I described is truly amazing and rapidly being injected into our daily lives as more of these vehicles are sold. You could be driving down the road and never realize the car next to you is driving itself. What would you do if you were standing outside a building and saw a driverless car coming toward you to pick the owner, who is standing next to you? What would your reaction be?

Likewise, what would your reaction be if you were in fact in the car, using autopilot, and several motorcycles, cars, or whatever type of vehicle you choose, comes up from behind at a high rate of speed, weaves in front of you, and the back again? Could you just sit there and let the car deal with it, or would you instinctively grab the wheel and try to take control?

Autonomous vehicles are here and their presence is growing at a rapid pace. (I have to say, I look forward to a day when I too join the autonomous vehicle club.) It is the human factor that now becomes the greatest challenge in adoption and safety. We are in a Jetsonian phase of our existence here on Earth. Autonomous, electric vehicle are here and the way of the future, especially if we are to inhabit other planets. Are you ready for today? Are you prepared for what is ahead tomorrow?

Leave a Reply