With every passing year, new technologies are redefining and improving car design. Although it may seem recent, the idea of AVs has been around since the 1950’s. Larger ride-sharing corporations, such as Uber, have already begun rolling out autonomous cars. Soon, you’ll be sharing the road with them. Let’s walk through some of the advantages of autonomous vehicles, as well as touch on their drawbacks. This will help you to better understand what autonomous vehicles have to offer Canadians in the future.

Advantages of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

1. Reduce traffic congestion

“Phantom” traffic jams begin when you tap on your breaks while in traffic for no specific reason. This is a result of following too closely or if you have distractions, which can cause a chain reaction. Because all the drivers behind you brake as well, this shock wave can travel backwards for kilometres and make the entire flow of vehicles grind to a halt. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help prevent these frustrating delays as cars will be able to communicate their speed, position and direction with each other.

Driverless cars will group participate in platooning, which allows these vehicles to brake or accelerate simultaneously. This means you will never get too close to another vehicle and need to suddenly slow down. A Platoon system allows for an automated highway system, which significantly reduces congestion and improves traffic. An AI car will start to slow down more gently and disrupt the ripple effect of abrupt stopping that eventually leads to gridlock.

2. Safer roads

There is a prediction that AVs will reduce the occurrence of road crashes and accidents. Largely due to driver errors, these distractions are the result of alcohol, drugs, speeding, aggression, inexperience and/or poor road conditions. Autonomous cars prevent human errors from happening as the system controls the vehicle instead. It leaves no opportunity for distraction. It also uses complicated algorithms that determine the correct stopping distance from one vehicle to another. Thereby, lessening the chances of your involvement in an accident dramatically.

3. No more parking worries

Parking can be the one of the most stressful aspects of driving. How many minutes have you spent circling a mall or city street, burning fuel, looking for a place to leave your car? Autonomous vehicles will be able to drop you off at the front door of your destination. Additionally, they’ll park themselves and pick you up when you call them. Since you won’t need to walk to the parking spot, driverless vehicles will be able to park far away until you’re ready to be collected.

4. Environmentally-friendly

Autonomous cars will likely be electric rather than utilizing internal-combustion engines. Furthermore, the consistent speeds self-driving cars will be traveling at will reduce constant braking and accelerating. These factors all contribute to reducing emissions and becoming more environmentally-sustainable.

5. Car design makeover

With AVs, manufacturers are able to create more space in the interior for your entertainment and relaxation. It will eliminated the need for complex driving equipment in your car. Experts foresee the self-driving car of the future would look something like a portable living room. Just imagine, you and your passengers can relax until you arrive at your intended destination.

6. Essentially zero errors

The technology behind AVs is extremely complicated. It allows an onboard computer system to make hundreds of different calculations every second.  Among other things, this computer can determine your car’s current speed, location, how far the car is from other objects and predict the behaviour of other cars on the road. Because these readings are so accurate, it reduces the risk of human error.

7. More free time for drivers

In addition to the new free time you will have while commuting, you will also have more time before your commute. As AVs work together on the roads to decrease traffic, getting to your destination will take less time, too. This means you will have more spare time to continue work or spend it catching up with loved-ones without having to worry about your daily commute.

8. Less fuel consumption 

As of late, gas prices have been volatile and difficult to predict and budget for. Hard braking and stop-and-go driving are proven ways to drain your fuel tank. The software in fully autonomous vehicles includes a communication system. What does it do? It will ensure all cars know the position and speed of other cars on the road. Therefore, you will eliminate wasting fuel in stop-and-go commutes, meaning more savings for you!

9. Accessibility to transportation

We have all been in situations where we have difficulty finding available transportation. Senior citizens and those with physical challenges know this frustration all too well. Autonomous vehicles can offer everyone a safe and accessible means of getting where they need to go. Programming that safely picks you up from a specific location, drives you to your destination, and parks until you’re ready to leave, AVs can be a lifeline to many housebound Canadians. Automated vehicles can also adapt to include picking up children from schools, clubs or leisure activities. This will allow parents a few more minutes of work each day to finish up tasks without having to sacrifice downtime with family.

10. Potential lower insurance costs

Going forward, insurance companies may be able to reward you for getting an autonomous vehicle. As human error is being taken out of the equation, owning a self-driving car reduces the chances for accidents. Therefore, your insurance premium could be lower, as well.

Disadvantages of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

1. Safety concerns

While you may feel that many safety issues will be addressed by automation, it is important to acknowledge that the technology is still fairly new. Fully autonomous vehicles are prone to misreading bumps in the road and struggle operating under certain weather conditions. Additionally, they may have trouble understanding their relationship with bicyclists and pedestrians. While technologies are continuously updating, your car’s system may encounter a faulty code if the update is not done properly.

2.  Reception issues

Nothing is more frustrating then getting out of the city and having poor reception on your device. Imagine this same issue while you are driving? Self-driving vehicles rely on a strong intercommunication with other AVs to share information wirelessly. As the technology is still new, manufacturers need to address how to transmit information in areas with poor reception to help keep you mobile.

3. Privacy and data security

Since plenty of data is necessary in order to make autonomous driving possible, critics have serious privacy concerns. Autonomous vehicles can be the next major target of cybercriminals. These vehicles work by sharing information with servers and other vehicles. Therefore, your AI-enabled car is vulnerable to hacking. As your vehicle continuously tracks and monitors your details, manufacturers will need to ensure that your data is not misused. How? By ensuring that the underlying data systems are properly protected.

4. Insurance concerns over accident fault

Lawmakers in Canada must regulate the rules of driverless vehicles. This can be problematic, as current traffic laws aren’t made for autonomous vehicles. The issue of fault will increase the liability cost of autonomous vehicles in Canada. As a result, we will likely see this impacting insurance rates nationwide.

5. Cost

Industry experts estimate that a self-driving car could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Considering the average salary for most Canadians is well below this figure, driverless vehicles will be initially unattainable for most. However, once time goes by and technology improves, drivers will likely be able to afford one.

6. Employment concerns

Many people fear that the use of AVs may lead to higher unemployment in the transportation sector. Many occupations, such as cab drivers, bus drivers and valets, may no longer be a requirement. AVs may improve the efficiency of these jobs, but the fear is that many could lose their jobs to AI.

7. Difficult and costly maintenance

Many car repair shops, unfamiliar with the ever-evolving technology, may not be able to fix issues of self-driving cars in a proper manner. Therefore, as an owner of one of these cars, you may have a hard time finding someone who is experienced enough in this field to fix your car. Maintenance of your vehicle can be difficult and also costly as as result.

8. The moral dilemma

Another one of the disadvantages to autonomous cars is their lack of ability to make judgments between unfavourable outcomes. For example, what if a self-driving car had to face a situation with only two possible options:

  1. Veering to the left and striking a pedestrian or
  2. Veering to the right and hitting a tree, potentially injuring passengers inside your vehicle?

Since both options are undesirable, which option would the autonomous car choose?

9. High R&D costs

Even though the technology behind autonomous vehicles is quite promising, plenty of money is still to be invested in order to make it safe enough for mass transportation. Until this kind of technology is mature enough, hundreds of billions of dollars have to be spent and plenty of research has to be done.

If you have any questions about AVs and the impact on your insurance, feel free to contact your isure broker.

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