The path to autonomous cars is progressing well, but there are a few issues. It’s worth highlighting them now so perhaps they can be addressed or at least considered.
The problems of refuelling will depend on the type of fuel. As it stands now, either a fluid fuel nozzle (petrol, diesel or hydrogen) or a charger needs to physically be put into the exterior of the car. Tesla is working on a robot for the later, but it will be a while before this method of refuelling/charging is fully solved. With the abundance of autonomous vehicles in the future and their thirst for energy, it might even mean the return of the ‘fuel pump attendant’.
Bugs & Glitches
Even with billions of miles of testing, there will always be situations where the autonomous vehicles get into trouble. Construction projects and severe weather are some examples where these issues may occur. We can also be confident there will always be issues because even now, humans with years of experience can make fatal errors. The key thing here is that even though bugs will cause problems, autonomous vehicles will still be 10X safer than human-operated vehicles. We cannot let the media play into the fears of autonomy when autonomous vehicles have a few minor mishaps.
Trusting a machine with your life is a big deal, we do it in many aspects of our lives already, but never so overtly as sitting in one moving at 70 miles an hour. Trains come to mind as the obvious exception, but we think that is because of a perception there is a human overlooking the system. Like some sort of 1:1 scale train set. Every time an autonomous vehicle has a metal hand in a human’s death there will be headlines. At least for the next five years, because the regular person has a hard time coming to terms with a machine being more capable than they are.
The most common point people bring up when it comes to autonomous cars is if it kills someone who is responsible. The other conundrum people like to throw at autonomous cars is the greater good scenario. i.e. a situation occurs where the car has a choice, turn left and drive into a crowd of people or turn right and kill the driver. We sense one of the reasons they ask this is because they want to know the car will save them and drive into the crowd of people. What people fail to realise is that autonomous cars would never get themselves into a situation like that, particularly where the car would be at fault. The vehicle wouldn’t take the reckless decisions humans would. The problem comes when all this must be defined by law, so blame can be assigned. Due to their lack of understanding the legislators and judges will get this wrong unless they are advised effectively. Tesla has said they are responsible for the effectiveness of their software, and will take the blame if something goes wrong. There will be a point, however, where we must blame the human pedestrian if it is their fault, especially if that human dies. Being complacent about how beneficial autonomous vehicles will be, will cost more lives if blame isn’t attributed fairly.
With the fleets of autonomous taxi’s coming in the next 10 years, we think one thing has failed to be taken into account, which is how inconsiderate people can be (to put it politely). Taxies will need to have their interiors cleaned regularly, how regularly may actually affect operations and viability. This is because people will leave their fast food, “cigarettes”, used condoms and bodily fluids in the cars. People will have sex in autonomous taxis, now they don’t have to wait until they get back to the hotel. Amusingly hotel booking might go down because it’s cheaper to take a 1-hour cab ride. Drug use is also going to come into play with people hotboxing cabs and having a private place to shoot up on the cheap. Now imagine you’re the customer after. If you were that person, I’m sure you would re-order your cab very quickly and down rate the service. Tesla has the idea of allowing your personal autonomous car to earn money for you while you’re at work. But, we don’t think people want their commute home to smell of semen and weed. One solution to the problem is to auto-charge customers a cleaning fee, who knows this might be the most profitable part.