Self-Driving Cars: Boon or Bust for Driving Fears and Anxiety?

driver sleeping

Those who suffer from driving fears and driving anxiety already know one way to avoid it is to simply not get behind the wheel. But will those fears and anxiety still hold true if you get behind the wheel of, say, a self-driving car?

What They Are

Also called autonomous cars, self-driving vehicles are equipped to handle driving down the road without any human intervention during the ride. Although technology is moving forward, it still has a long way to go before you could experience a totally hands-free ride. A few big hurldes also still need to be overcome. These include:

  • Combining sensor-based technology and communication technology: The former refers to the types of features already available in some vehicles, such as automated parallel parking and lane-drifting warnings. The latter refers to communication with other vehicles so they don’t collide. The vehicles would also need a way to sense and respond to street lights, stop signs, guardrails and other roadway infrastructure.
  • Figuring out the law: While California has already passed a law that makes self-driving vehicles legal, other states still need to follow suit. Other legal issues also need ironing out, such as who would be at fault for a collision: the vehicle’s owner or the manufacturer? Also, what will vehicle passengers be allowed to do while in the car? Drink? Text? Sleep?

A report in Time noted self-driving vehicles may be available to the public by 2019, although other reports put the timeline into the more distant future.

What You Can Find Now

Even if a full-fledged self-driving vehicle is not yet available, Tesla has launched an autopilot feature that allows the car to drive itself for short periods of time. While you can’t actually take a nap or read a book while your car ferries you across town, you can engage the autopilot much the same way you would engage cruise control.

“It’s not a substitute for the driver,” explained YouTube reviewer Barnacules Nerdgasm while testing the autopilot feature on a Tesla P85D. “It’s just a tool to help the driver.” He says you still need to pay attention to the road and your surroundings, with the option of taking the vehicle off autopilot at any time.

Safer or More Dangerous?

Tesla Model S owners have already been privy to the new autopilot feature that was delivered to them as a software update for their existing vehicles. And, as The Next Web reports, they’ve already been doing stupid things with it.

You can find multiple YouTube videos of cars on autopilot, speeding down the road, while the owners are busy recording the episode – often with near-tragic results. The autopilot feature does have safeguards built in, like a warning that signals drivers need to take the wheel, but apparently some are more interested in showing off their new “toy” than driving safely.

That brings up yet another question. The technology may be smart enough to safely get car owners to their destination, but are car owners smart enough to use it as intended? Another hurdle may be ensuring car owners receive proper training and education on self-driving vehicles so they don’t simply stir up more driving fears and driving anxiety knowing they’re on the road.


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