They debunk the most widespread myths about autonomous driving


How will self-driving cars change mobility? The &Audi initiative ‘SocAIty’ survey provides the answer

Will self-driving cars soon become a reality? How should the attitudes of the users change in order for autonomous driving to be widely accepted? The &Audi study ‘SocAIty’, prepared with the help of renowned experts, examines these issues, among others, and sheds light on some of the most widely held myths surrounding this technology.

Myth #1: Autonomous cars will be like conventional cars, but without a driver.

Aerodynamics in particular is a key factor when it comes to the range of electric cars and therefore continues to play an important role in the design. This will continue to be the case with the advent of autonomous driving technology. What is clear is that design will focus on the interior in the future. Passenger comfort will be a priority, so in certain situations their seats will no longer face forward. This freedom of interior design offers passengers a wide range of options for personalized onboard experiences: communication or relaxation, work or rest. Passenger space will be maximized by allowing what is no longer needed – the pedals, gear lever and steering wheel – can be temporarily retracted.

In this connection,
Oliver Hoffman, Head of Technical Development at Audi explains: “Digitalization enables us to make mobility even safer, more personal and, above all, more intelligent. The aim is for our vehicles to integrate perfectly into the daily lives of our customers. In this way we create real added value by giving them time back for the things that are important to them.”

Myth #2: Once the software is developed and available, self-driving cars can drive anywhere.

To circulate autonomous cars on the road, completely reliable and secure software is needed, not only for the car, but for the entire environment. This will gradually change the appearance of our cities. This will require the infrastructure to be expanded, including intelligent traffic lights and road sensors. Cities will become more digital and provide a suitable ecosystem for an increasing number of automated cars. This makes cities safer and more manageable and traffic can flow without interruptions or traffic jams.

Myth #3: Autonomous cars make driving less fun.

This myth is one of the biggest concerns of car enthusiasts: being sentenced to the role of an inactive passenger. Some fear that their car will prevent them from crossing the country and enjoying the fun of driving, with the foot on the pedal and hands on the wheel. But the truth is the opposite: autonomous cars will not end the fun we have behind the wheel. No manufacturer will stop its customers from driving their own car if they want to. In the future, vehicle owners will continue to have the option to drive the car themselves or leave control to the car in situations such as heavy highway traffic.

Myth #4: Self-driving cars are at high risk of cyber-attacks.

It’s not true. Self-driving cars will not be more vulnerable than conventional cars. However, the consequences of a hacker attack on the security-related systems of an autonomous vehicle can be more serious. That is why manufacturers are constantly developing defenses against cyber-attacks and improving protection mechanisms, both in the vehicle and outside. As cars become more connected to their environment, so does the need to ensure reliable and always up-to-date cybersecurity. At the same time, automated vehicles will improve road safety, as well as greater efficiency and comfort, benefiting society as a whole. The most important thing is to include this safety factor from the initial stage of the design to the end of the process.

Myth #5: Autonomous cars need fewer parking spaces.

No, in reality self-driving cars will not require less parking space; but they will use it much more efficiently. In addition, if more and more cars were shared, the density of vehicles in metropolitan areas could decrease. At the moment, according to the German Environment Agency, passenger cars are driven on average for one hour a day.

Myth #6: The technology has already been developed, but laws regulating autonomous driving are still lacking.

It is true that technological development in countries like the US or China seems to be faster than in Germany and Europe. However, it is also true that very early on, German lawmakers created a legal framework that prioritizes safety in the development and introduction of autonomous driving technology. In this sense, Germany is considered a pioneer even by international standards. Since 2017, autonomous driving systems are allowed under certain circumstances to take over actions that were previously solely the responsibility of humans (SAE level 3). In June 2021, a legal framework was enacted allowing vehicles with level 4 or higher autonomous driving to drive regularly in public traffic, albeit only within defined areas (e.g. traffic from A to B and buses ‘moving people’ on designated routes).

This law is a first step towards a more complete regulation, which is being intensively worked on. Law enforcement agencies don’t block development, they simply follow the legally established principle that safety comes first.
Uta KlawitterHead of Legal Services at AUDI AG, adds: “German lawmakers are at the forefront of regulating automated driving functions worldwide, creating a first legal framework for manufacturers to develop these technologies.”

Myth #7: In extreme cases, autonomous vehicles will have to make life or death decisions.

As far as autonomous driving is concerned, from the current perspective, the decisive factor is this: it is not the car itself that decides, but the people who program the vehicle, who can only reflect what the software specifies. And all the previous research proves it: cars are much less prone to errors than humans, for example because of their immunity to fatigue, even during long journeys.

Many people are concerned with whether a machine can make the right decision in a dangerous situation. But it is not the first time that autonomous driving has tackled this problem. In fact, it has been the subject of debate in the field of ethics for decades, as illustrated by the so-called ‘Tram Dilemma’. This experiment asks us to imagine a situation where an individual can divert a runaway tram into a siding that has one person trapped, saving the lives of five people tied to the original track. Would this be a criminal offence? Shouldn’t the person act at all? Or has the person reflected and acted correctly to limit the damage as much as possible?

With autonomous driving, this discussion has resurfaced. But according to the study, the main point is that in a dangerous situation, a self-driving car would not make its own decision, but would only reflect the software options that its creators endowed it with. It can and will only take the decisions and ethical values ​​of the people who designed it, and apply them without their own interpretation.

Myth #8: Autonomous cars will be so expensive that few people can afford them.

The development of self-driving cars is a task that requires a large investment. In the short and medium term, this naturally affects the cost of the product. But in the long run, that is, when they are ready for series production and the development costs have been written off, prices will fall. In addition, the expected increase in road safety will significantly reduce damage to a self-driving car, which in turn is likely to further reduce repair and insurance costs. Another important factor is the expected change in mobility use: in metropolitan areas, some autonomous vehicles will be owned by mobility providers rather than private individuals. Or they are used by multiple people through sharing mode. This also increases the efficiency of use and will have a positive effect on costs.

Source: La Verdad


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