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5 Ways Self-Driving Cars Can Fail

Self-driving cars have the potential to change the way we live, but manufacturers will have to navigate these five speed bumps before they are ready for the public.

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Self-Driving Cars Can Change the Way We Live

The automotive industry’s most exciting project in the last five years is the self-driving car. A number of companies such as Tesla Motors, Volvo and Uber are working on them, while Google aims to make its own line of self-driving cars available to the public by 2020. Until then, companies have a long way to go before perfecting the self-driving car and finding solutions – here are five ways they can fail.

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1. Self-Driving Cars Might Not Handle Bad Weather Well

Self-driving cars rely on systems like radar sensors and optical cameras to navigate their environment. Those systems, however, have one major enemy – bad weather. Google’s self-driving cars, for example, have mostly been tested in various regions of California, where the climate is warm and snow is extremely rare. Car manufacturers will have to improve self-driving cars’ radar capabilities if they want drivers from snowy regions of North America to leave their old cars behind.

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2. Mapping a Self-Driving Car’s Environment is Hard

Along with sensors, Google’s self-driving cars will rely on new GPS map information to determine their location. As a result, Google will have to create and manage detailed maps of many countries in the world. Other car manufacturers think this is the wrong way to go. There are over a million kilometres of public roads in Canada alone – that’s a lot of data to be stored in your car, and not all of it may be accurate. Tesla Motors, for example, is planning to make its self-driving cars rely more on image and sensor processing than maps.

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3. Self-Driving Cars Will Require New Laws

Who takes the blame in the event of a self-driving car accident – the computer, the manufacturer or the passenger? That scenario will require new laws and regulations, and it’s one of the big challenges car manufacturers will have to face.

And while self-driving cars have the potential to be safer than regular cars (human errors cause the majority of collisions), they won’t be crash-free. A recent study from the research firm RAND Corporation suggested that self-driving cars need to be driven “hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles” to thoroughly test safety.

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4. Self-Driving Cars Might Be Targeted by Hackers

In order for self-driving cars to work, they will need to communicate with other vehicles by exchanging data. But since self-driving cars are controlled by computer systems, the threat of hacking exists.

In a study published in MIT Technology Review, Stefan Savage, computer science professor at the University of California-San Diego, said that it might be possible to hack into a self-driving car through its built-in cellular connection. Once inside, hackers could theoretically take control of the brakes or engine. Car manufacturers will have to beef up security on their cars to make drivers feel safer.

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5. Not Everyone Wants a Self-Driving Car

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute showed that self-driving cars may not be as popular with the public as car manufacturers hope. Of the 618 drivers surveyed, 45.8 per cent said they don’t want any self-driving capability in their cars, while just 15 per cent of respondents said they would want a self-driving car.

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