Driverless cars are taking over the world. Or so it seems, if you read the news and watch the fanboy reactions in the tech world. In this article, we try to break it down to see if driverless cars are the future in Southeast Asia.

We’ve seen the rise of electric vehicles, hybrids and many more, but are we taking a step into Sci-fi with driverless cars?

We published a story about this earlier, so give it a read.

A nuTonomy driverless car
Image courtesy nuTonomy facebook

What is a driverless car?

A driverless car (or a self-driving car, an automated car or an autonomous vehicle) is a robotic vehicle that is designed to travel between destinations without a human operator. To qualify as fully autonomous, a vehicle must be able to navigate unfamiliar roads without human intervention to a predetermined destination.

Companies in the driverless car in include Audi, BMW, Ford, Google, General Motors, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Singapore’s own nuTomony.

New Technology, new challenges

The challenges facing driverless or autonomous cars can be channeled into a single topic; Safety. However, to make it simpler, we’ve broken that down into multiple points:

  • Ability to adapt: can driverless cars adapt to changing situations and hazardous road conditions.
  • Communication: will driverless cars communicate efficiently on the roads with each other, helping reduce congestion and accidents
  • Wrong directions: Google maps isn’t infallible (don’t get me started on Apple maps), can we expect AI not be fooled?
  • Hacking: we hack everything, driverless cars included, can we prevent hacking while we’re on the roads?

Experts believe that driverless cars could save lives by reducing the number of accidents on the road. A study by US-based non-profit Eno Centre for Transportation showed that if 90 percent of the cars on American roads were driverless, the number of accidents would fall from 5.5 million to 1.3 million a year, and road deaths from 32,400 to 11,300. Meanwhile, the elderly and disabled persons, such as the blind may finally have a chance to “drive” independently with an autonomous vehicle, improving their quality of life significantly.

Environmental benefits

Driverless car on the road

The emergence of autonomous vehicles should result in benefits, beyond just the financial. These range from greater fuel efficiency and reduced road congestion to helping relieve demands on labour and land.

As driverless vehicles are designed to optimise efficiency, they would also boost fuel efficiency and, as a result, reduce carbon emissions. A study by consultants McKinsey estimated that the adoption of autonomous cars could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 300 million tons per year.

Are they the future?

In our humble opinion, yes. However, with only one company based in the region and not many other local players, it does seem to be quite far off in the future. Driverless cars and AI-powered thought engines would make it easier to manage the insane traffic jams that clog the roads in Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand. and most other countries. It is also a great way to reduce accidents and improve overall road safety.

But it is expensive though and if we look at how most people travel in the region, this isn’t something for the masses.

So, while we are rooting for it, we don’t see this as something that will take over our roads in the near-future.

If you have any other suggestions or thoughts, or even if you just want to chat, drop us a message here.


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