There’s no question that driverless cars have a big part to play in the future of driving. Manufacturers including Tesla, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Google have been experimenting with autonomous driving technology for over a decade, and some road-going cars are already equipped with tech that takes control out of the driver’s hands.
But despite how quickly new technologies develop in the world of car design, fully-driverless cars are still a long way off. Even the biggest names in the industry have yet to perfect autonomous driving tech.
We’re taking a look at five of the weirdest driverless car fails on the web – from unfortunate fender benders to autonomous cars getting lost and confused.
1. Volvo’s Brake Fail Moment
Volvo has invested a ton of money into developing autonomous technology for its luxury SUVs and saloons, and now many of its models feature high-tech gadgetry like automatic emergency brakes and lane speed match. These kinds of technologies rely on similar machine learning to that used on fully-driverless cars, but the Swedish brand’s roll-out of autonomous technology hasn’t always been plain-sailing.
Rather than detecting the pedestrians and automatically applying the brakes, the three-tonne SUV ploughs straight through the onlookers, giving a couple of people some nasty bruises in the process. We’d hate to think what could have happened if this had been in the centre of a busy town!
2. Self-Driving Google Car Gets a Little Lost
Everyone’s favourite search engine, Google, is one of the frontrunners in the race to launch a fully-driverless car, but even the tech giant has had some hiccups in perfecting the technology so far. One of the issues that manufacturers are struggling to solve about driverless cars is how easily they can get confused about damaged street signs or deteriorated road markings, with cars often coming to a complete stop while they try to decipher what to do next.
While a driver would have had no problem tackling this quiet roundabout, Google’s self-driving car gets in a bit of a flap, stopping for several seconds in the middle of the road. This type of situation is one of most common causes of driverless car fails, with robotic drivers struggling to understand strange junctions, poor road markings or unclear street signs. Just think of the road rage this would cause here in the UK!
3. Self-Steering Car Gets It All Wrong
While emergency city braking (like the tech from point 1) is an impressive feature that’s now fitted to a lot of new cars, self-steering is the next big feature that manufacturers like Ford, BMW and Volvo want to start adding to the next generation of new cars off the production line. But, for a car to steer by itself, it needs to not only recognise where it is and what’s around it, but also be ready to face obstacles that it might not have anticipated – and that’s sometimes a tall order, as the video below shows.
Rather than steering around the obstacles, the car has other ideas, completely failing to stop before it careers into the crash test dummy. Embarrassingly for the car’s developers, this happened at a self-driving car convention, where manufacturers were showcasing new autonomous technology – but at least it wasn’t on the road.
4. Self-Driving Bus Crashes Two Hours After Launch
Cars aren’t the only vehicles that have been given the autonomous treatment, with some manufacturers focusing on introducing driverless technology to buses and trucks. But, things haven’t gone all that well so far, with one self-driving bus crashing just two hours after taking to the roads in the US.
To the bus’s credit, the driver of the truck was to blame, having been reversing illegally at the time of the accident. But, while it could be argued that the accident wouldn’t have happened if the truck had the same collision sensors as the bus, we think that if there’d been a human at the wheel, they would have tried to reverse out of the truck’s path or at least sound the horn. This kind of instinctive human behaviour is what’s lacking from driverless technology, and it’s something manufacturers are having a hard time trying to solve.
5. The Risk of Hacking to Driverless Cars
A lot of people are sceptical about the security offered by driverless cars, and for good reason. With so much high-tech computer software onboard every self-driving car, they’re an obvious target for skilled hackers who may want to harm or exploit those behind the wheel. There are plenty of videos out there showing just how easy it is for hackers to gain access to a car, but this one shows just how scary it can be…
Cybercrime is an ever-growing threat in the UK, and some experts believe that self-driving cars could be yet another way for hackers to disrupt everyday life. Before we see driverless cars as a permanent feature on the road, manufacturers will have to prove that their cars are safe from the threat posed by cybercriminals.
What do you think about the rise of driverless cars? Do you think they have a future on UK roads, or are they just a flash in the pan? Let us know by joining in the conversation over on the Redex Club Facebook group. If you’re here to learn more about our fuel additives and system cleaners, click here to visit the Redex homepage.