Autonomous driving technologies are in cars already. Ford and Nissan have shown off their Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication (V2V) systems over the last 2 years and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) comes as standard on the Volkswagen Golf.

Such systems are exciting. But are they going to make our roads safer?

Will autonomous car tech make roads safer?

We’re not sure that they are. At least, the current systems won’t anyway.

The problem with autonomous driving aids as we see them (specifically, adaptive cruise control) is that they can activate when you aren’t expecting them to. For example, the system can brake harshly when a car passes in front after overtaking or it can surge forward at an unsociable rate of acceleration when the coast is clear. Each of these actions are taken because the car believes it knows better than the driver. And each can cause alarm, causing the driver to counter what it is doing. Thus defeating the whole point of the system.

But this is just one example. So let’s give you another:

Most safety technology works seamlessly. Traction control, ESP and ABS are prime examples of technologies that simply work. An example of a technology that doesn’t (sorry Volkswagen) is the City Emergency Braking system. This collision avoiding technology slams on the brakes when it believes a collision is imminent at speeds of under 18mph. Sounds great doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t really know when a collision is imminent. And so, it can slam on when you are simply following a car closely from behind, or when another car turns off and you don’t leave a ‘reasonable distance’ (yet, one that is completely safe). This not only causes the driver to panic, but it means that the poor sod behind you might go into the back of you. Imagine that conversation:

Angry driver who just hit you – “Why the fu** did you slam on!!??”

You – “Sorry mate! It’s that City Emergency Braking System!”

The good news is that the system can be turned off. But that defeats the point of it, doesn’t it? It is a wasted feature. It is additional weight. It becomes… utterly pointless.

But there is an argument for autonomous driving technology in its current state. And that argument is that you are taking judgements calls out of the hands of people who quite frankly are not very good drivers and this will make the roads safer. And there is definitely the potential for this to be the case. But to be truly effective, these systems need to be consistent and be designed in a way so that they can better interpret their surroundings.

Advancements are being made. But progress is slow. And in its current form, autonomous driving technology will not make our roads safer. At least, that’s our opinion.

Your turn

What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree with us? Be sure to share your comments with us below or join the discussion on Facebook.