Self-Driving Cars – Should We Embrace Them?

The new self-driving vehicle is sparking the interest of many Canadians as a place where people can work, socialize or simply relax while safely traveling. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada in January 2016, the next generation of these innovations were introduced, including Kia, who joined the race with Google, Tesla and Mercedes Benz by showcasing its fully autonomous vehicle.

Google is already looking to have its driverless vehicles in production by 2020 and is currently in talks with some of the biggest automakers. Filled with sensors, their vehicles are controlled through eye movement and gestures. They can make driving decisions based on what’s happening around them in real time, such as slowing down for cars that come from hidden driveways, cyclists making gestures that indicate a possible turn or jaywalking pedestrians. The sensors can detect objects at a distance of more than two football fields in all directions.

Mercedes Benz’ self-driving “F015 Luxury in Motion” vehicle is also in the testing phase. It has LED lights on the front and back to enable the car to communicate with others. Blue lights mean it is autonomous driving mode and white means someone is controlling the vehicle. The car can increase safety through its capabilities, faster reaction time and absence of distractions. The vehicle can come pick you up with a smartphone app as well.

Canadian Attitudes About Driverless Cars

After much talk about the new technology for years, in December 2015 Kanetix conducted a survey to find out what Canadian consumers think about self-driving cars. Using a representative sample of 1,095 Canadians, views on sharing the road with self-driving cars were enthusiastic for just as many Canadians (about a quarter) as those who said they aren’t interested. Views were tentative for 52 percent of Canadians, who said it would depend on the technology and how well it works before they would make a decision.

Differences in opinion were found by age and gender, with the youngest demographic, ages 18 to 34, being most excited and almost twice as many males as females wanting driverless cars. Variances in attitudes were also found by geography, with Quebec and Ontario being the most enthusiastic and Western Canadians being least likely to want the driverless car.

An overwhelming majority of Canadians are of the view that driverless cars will be safer. Fifty-one percent believe that fewer accidents will result, and 61 percent see eliminated risks like speeding and impaired driving as the best outcomes of driverless vehicles. Other benefits of the new technology include a more enjoyable and relaxing drive (39 percent), a less stressful commute (35 percent) and not worrying about parking (22 per cent).

Phasing In the New Technologies

Introducing certain technological advances today could help Canadians to prepare for the onset of self-driving cars when they arrive on the market. GM is working on one of the latest driver assistance programs. The “Seeing Machine” technology tracks the movement of your head and eyes to measure your attention level and gauges the time you spend without your eyes on the road. The technology is also capable of sensing if you haven’t checked your rear view mirror enough.

Several innovations are being developed by Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research Center. One is the use of audio, visual and physical cues to alert a driver of an approaching cyclist or motorbike. Using its sensors, the technology will trigger a tap on the driver’s shoulder to compel him or her to look back and spot a cyclist approaching from the rear. The device will also send off a cycle bell or bike honk from a speaker on the side of the vehicle that the two-wheeled vehicle is approaching. There are plans for LED lights to light up amber or red to signal the close distance to help prevent the common accident of opening a door as the cyclist is passing.

Advanced driver assistance systems are already available in some new vehicles, such as Chrysler’s “LaneSense,” which will automatically nudge you back into the centre of the lane. Other driver assistance technologies that have emerged include driver alertness detection systems, automatic braking, infrared night vision, adaptive headlamps, reverse backup sensors, to name a few.

Turn to HDF Insurance for the Latest News and Developments

With self-driving cars around the corner and some new automobile technologies already here, there is much hope that new improvements to the automobile will reduce accidents, save lives and make commuting less stressful and more enjoyable. It remains to be seen as to what issues these new technologies will bring, including any changes to car insurance rates. Follow HDF Insurance online for updates and call us if you have questions or would like to obtain a free auto insurance quote in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-800-567-2048.