Will the autonomous car become a reality soon? And how will people’s attitudes need to change for autonomous driving to be widely accepted? These questions and more are explored in &Audi’s “SocAIty” study, compiled with the help of renowned experts. It also clears up some of the common myths surrounding this topic. Really? What is not?
Myth #1: Self-driving cars will be just like regular cars, only without a driver.
Aerodynamics in particular is a key factor when it comes to electric vehicles, so it still plays an important role in design. The appearance of cars and other vehicles with the growth of automation will not change dramatically in this regard. However, it is clear that the design will be focused on the interior in the future. Passenger comfort will be a priority, so their seats will no longer necessarily be oriented in the direction of travel in certain use cases. This freedom of interior design will provide passengers with a wide range of personalization options: socialize or relax, work or play. Passenger space will be maximized by the fact that everything that is no longer needed – the pedals, gear lever and steering wheel – will be temporarily removed.
“Digitalization allows us to make mobility even safer, more individual and, above all, smarter. The goal is that our vehicles fit perfectly into the daily lives of our customers. In this way, we create real added value by giving them time back for the things that matter to them. »explains Oliver Hoffmann, member of the board of directors at Audi responsible for technical development.
Myth #2: Once the software is developed and available, self-driving cars will be able to drive anywhere.
Bringing self-driving cars to the roads will require completely reliable and secure software not only for the car, but for the entire environment. This will gradually change the face of our cities by expanding our infrastructure to include smart traffic lights and road sensors. Cities will become more digital, providing an ecosystem suitable for the growing number of automated vehicles. This will make cities safer and more peaceful, where traffic can ideally flow without disruption and traffic jams.
“This is not a revolution, but an evolution. Step by step in a direction that is already becoming clearer. »— said Eric Hilgendorf, SocAity expert.
Myth #3: Self-driving cars will make driving less fun.
This myth is an obvious source of concern for car enthusiasts: being doomed to the role of an inactive passenger. Some fear that their car will prevent them from crossing the country and enjoying the feeling of a foot on the pedal and a hand on the steering wheel. But the opposite is also true: self-driving cars will not end the pleasure we get behind the wheel. No manufacturer will prohibit their customers from driving their own car if they so desire. In the future, vehicle owners will always have the choice of driving the car themselves or handing over control to the car during frustrating situations such as stops and starts on the highway.
“We need to transport people, not cars. »said Thorsten Gollewski, expert at SocAité.
Myth #4: Self-driving cars can be hacked.
It is not true. Self-driving cars will not be more vulnerable than manually operated cars. At the same time, the impact of a hacker attack on the security systems of unmanned vehicles may be more serious. For this reason, manufacturers are constantly developing measures to protect against cyber attacks and improve protection mechanisms, both inside the car and outside at the rear. As vehicles become more and more connected to the environment, so too is the effort required to ensure robust and always up-to-date cybersecurity. At the same time, automated vehicles will improve road safety as well as increase efficiency and comfort, which will benefit society as a whole.
“Now the industry is really serious about this, but it is important for them to integrate security from the initial design phase into the process and into all aspects of the business. »explains Sam Abuelsamid, expert at SocAité.
Myth #5: Self-driving cars will require fewer parking spaces.
Self-driving cars won’t need less parking space. But they will use it much more effectively. In addition, vehicle densities in metropolitan areas may decrease if an increasing proportion of vehicles are used together in sharing models. For your information: according to the German Environment Agency, cars currently drive on average only one hour a day.
Myth #6: The technology has already been developed, but there are still no laws on autonomous driving.
It is true that technological development in countries like the United States or China seems to be going faster than in Germany and Europe. However, it is also true that German legislators have already created a legal framework that puts safety first when developing and implementing autonomous driving technologies. In this regard, Germany is even considered a pioneer in terms of international standards. As of 2017, autonomous driving systems are allowed under certain circumstances to support activities that were previously the sole responsibility of humans (SAE level 3). In June 2021, a legal framework was created to allow autonomous vehicles of level 4 and above to regularly operate in public transport, but only in certain areas (for example, block traffic from point A to point B and “passenger” buses on certain routes). . This law is the first step towards a more comprehensive regulation, which is currently being worked on intensively. So the fact is that law enforcement agencies do not block the development. They simply follow the legally established principle that safety is paramount.
“German legislators are leading the world in regulating automated driving features, creating an initial legal framework for manufacturers to develop these technologies. »said Uta Klavitter, Head of Legal Services, General Counsel of Audi AG.
Myth #7: In extreme cases, autonomous vehicles will have to make life and death decisions.
In terms of autonomous driving, the decisive factor from today’s point of view is that it is not the car itself that decides, but the people who program the vehicle. The car can only display what the software indicates. And all previous research shows this: cars are much less prone to human error than people – for example, because of their immunity to fatigue even during long trips.
Many are concerned about the question of whether the machine will be able to make the right choice in a dangerous situation. But this is not the first time the question of autonomous driving has been raised. In fact, this has been a topic of ethical debate for decades, as the “cart problem” shows. This thought experiment invites us to imagine a situation in which a person can steal a runaway cart into a side alley where one person stands still, saving the lives of five people tied to the original alley. Will it be a criminal offense? Should a person not act at all? Or did the person properly think and act to mitigate the greatest harm possible?
With autonomous driving, this debate has been resurrected: in the study, experts say the central point of the discussion is that an autonomous car will not make its own decision in a dangerous situation, but rather will reflect the choice of software that its creators endowed it with. . It can and only wants to take the ethical decisions and values of the people who design it and apply them without its own interpretation.
“We need to move from a more theoretical dilemma to addressing real-world issues that affect business, such as liability and risk assessment. »said Christoph Lutge, SocAity expert.
Myth #8: As a technology, self-driving cars will be so expensive that few people can afford them.
The development of unmanned vehicles is a business with big investments. In the short and medium term, this, of course, affects the cost of production. But in the long run, that is, when they are ready for mass production and development costs are appropriately amortized, prices will drop again. In addition, the expected improvement in road safety will significantly reduce the damage caused by self-driving cars. This will likely further reduce repair and insurance costs. Another important factor is the expected evolution of mobility use: in metropolitan areas, some autonomous vehicles will be owned by mobility providers rather than individuals. Or they will be shared by several people through the exchange of concepts. This will also improve utilization efficiency and have a positive impact on costs.
“I think there will be more opportunities in the future. It will be more fragmented than today. And obviously there is a wider range of available modes that have just been discovered. »explains Pete Bigelow, expert at SocAité.
Nineteen renowned experts from around the world contributed to the 2021 &Audi study titled “Society – Autonomous Driving Towards Social Acceptance”, which covers topics such as law, ethics and data. Click here to download the 76-page study.