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Humans are distinguishable from all other life on Earth due to their remarkable intelligence and need to advance and revolutionize the world around them. Our ancestors have worked tirelessly to renovate and make the world that we are so familiar with today. As more and more time passes, the technological advancements that people are achieving are happening more rapidly and more groundbreaking than ever before.
The true meaning of the word automobile, is a car that drives itself. Intelligent minds as old as Leonardo Da Vinci dreamt of such technologies that would be operable without the assistance of a human being. While Da Vinci was way beyond his years, the self-driving car would become a reality in the mid-1900s. While these early models were mostly unsuccessful, they led to even more people latching onto this idea and putting a great deal of time and resources into perfecting it.
How it works
In the early years of the self-driving car, people imagined it as a way family’s can spend more time together while also being on the road during a road trip. The earliest model of the self-driving car was constructed by Francis Houdina in 1925. This car was radio controlled and drove down the streets of Britain without any humans at the wheel. In 1969, inventor John McCarthy spoke of a computer-controlled car that used “”television camera input that uses the same visual input available to the human driver”” (according to McCarthy). He wrote an essay on this in which he described the car being controlled by a computers keyboard. While he didn’t actually build the car, he paved the way for more inventors to piggy back on his idea. In the early 1990s, Dean Pomerleau made the connection on how neutral networks could input pictures from the road and output steering controls. This theory innovated the development of the self-driving car. In 1995, Pomerleau teamed up with Todd Jochem to create a self-driving minivan. Although the pair had to control the brakes and speed, the car travelled an impressive 2,797 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California. This journey would later be referred to as “”No Hands Across America.”” In 2002, DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) created a competition offering a 1 million dollar prize for anyone who could build an autonomous car that could make it through 142 miles of the Mojave Desert. In 2004, the competition took place and none of the entries were able to complete the challenge. The most successful car was only able to make it 8 miles in several hours before it went up in flames. This was cause for as major setback for inventors with the goal of the self-driving car. However, the dream would not be let go of as more generations continued to strive for completing this ultimate goal.
While fully autonomous cars were not yet created in the 19th century, a Toyota hybrid in Japan offered assistance with parallel parking. In 2009, Google embarked in its own secret mission to create a working self-driving car. In only a few years, Google released information that the car had driven 300,000 miles under the control of a computer (not in a row) without getting in one accident. By 2013, many major car companies began to develop their own self-driving cars. In 2014, Google revealed the prototype of a car without a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal; it was a completely autonomous car. Over 2 million miles have been driven by this car since the end of last year by this car. Nissan set a launch date for their self-driving car: 2020. Companies like Tesla and Uber have also been cultivating autonomous cars.
With the cars gaining popularity and funds, it is becoming a more plausible option for people in the near future. There are many helpful benefits that could come from this car. For example, elderlies who are not able to drive due to loss of sight, slow reactions, dementia, etc., will now be able to get around by themselves. The self-driving car could bring them wherever they want and they would not have to worry about bothering a family member or calling a taxi. It can also provide relief for the many people around the world who suffer from blindness. Blind people cannot operate a car, for obvious reasons, which adds to the many disadvantages in their lives. This car could greatly improve their lives and allow them to be more self-sufficient. The car may also make lives easier for people with mental disabilities such as Down syndrome. While most people with this disease aren’t able to operate a car, they would have the ability to get around by themselves. A huge epidemic in the United States is drunk driving. The self-driving car would seriously lower the risk of injury or death for people who are intoxicated and the people around them. Another problem that is on the rise in America is people going to sleep at the wheel. It is a fact that 30 percent of Americans (40.6 million people) are sleep deprived. That means that there could be 40.6 million people who are on the road only half awake, endangering millions of others. This car could allow people to take a short nap or slightly doze off while their vehicle continues the ride home. An autonomous car could prevent many dangers that human drivers cause and face.
Although this invention wields many advantages and has the potential to make lives easier, is it actually a safe method of transportation? There have been numerous accounts of crashes with this technology that in theory, should be making the roads safer. These cars drive like robots: perfectly and obediently, in streets full of humans. Many people aren’t accustomed to a car that fully stops at a stop sign or a car that obeys the speed limit 100 percent. This can lead to many accidents due to low-speeds. One occurring accident is that the driver-less car stops too short at stop signs, often getting rear-ended by others cars behind it. There have been reportedly over 43 autonomous accidents in the cars’ small life span. Luckily, none of the accident so far have caused any fatalities or serious injuries. These mistakes and accidents have been addressed by big companies such as Google which said they would be tweaking their version to mirror human driving except without the mistakes. Today many developers drive their self-driving cars with a driver in the vehicle just in case. This can prevent any further injuries from happening.
The autonomous car is clearly a very innovative invention and can perhaps be exciting. It has the capability to become something great in the future. It may take years or it may take decades. With technology advancing at such a fast rate these days, it is hard to tell. Since the idea was first born, many improvements have been made. However, this car still has a long way to come before it becomes a part of everyday life for the average person. One day Da’ Vinci’s dream will come alive and will be wonder full for all who witness it.
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