If you’re someone interested in cars, technology or both, you’re probably aware of the recent hype surrounding the autopilot feature many luxury cars are offering. It claims to park cars automatically and reduce the input required of drivers to a minimum during the long highways drives many commuters dread. How confident should you feel trusting your safety to a computerized driving aid?
Autopilot represents an impressive achievement for the automotive industry, but taking a look in the proverbial rear-view mirror will reveal what we really have in autopilot is a highly developed form of cruise control.
Autopilot Systems Still Have Limits
Autopilot combines the speed-holding capabilities of cruise control with information about what’s going on around a car. The car’s on-board computer is then able to make decisions about whether to speed up, slow down or alert the drive because more input than that system is able to make is required.
The latest systems can even give steering inputs, but without laws to define how automated cars should behave on the road, human supervision is required of them, and for good reason. The systems aren’t advanced enough to know whether you want to follow a specific off-ramp, for example, or make sense of a road that isn’t clearly marked.
Harsh weather conditions can also pose a problem for systems that rely on reflective strips to make sense of the vehicle’s heading.
The following motion graphic portrays the risks you take by allowing autopilot to go unsupervised. We think you’ll agree after watching that it’s always best to keep your hands on the wheel.