Driverless cars: Best solution to phone driving?

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Driverless cars: Best solution to phone driving?

Dubai - In Dubai - which expects 25 per cent of vehicle traffic to be automated by 2030 - the strategy is expected to reduce road accidents and associated losses by 12 per cent, saving Dh2 billion each year.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Published: Mon 26 Sep 2016, 8:25 PM

Driverless cars have the potential to significantly reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers using their mobile phones behind the wheel, according to experts.
In recent months, driverless cars have been gaining popularity around the world, with driverless taxis now plying on the roads of Singapore, and Pittsburgh in the United States.
In Dubai - which expects 25 per cent of vehicle traffic to be automated by 2030 - the strategy is expected to reduce road accidents and associated losses by 12 per cent, saving Dh2 billion each year.
Professor Nick Reed, academy director of the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory - which works with a number of UAE government entities - said automated systems could help avoid collisions in a number of ways.

"Firstly, the sensor systems will not get fatigued, distracted or impaired in the ways human drivers do. Secondly, the sensors can have greater coverage around the vehicle - there are no blind spots," he noted. "Thirdly, automated systems may be able to assess risk in a more objective way than humans do and take a more cautious approach where justified.
"Furthermore, by having connectivity with infrastructure and other vehicles, automated vehicles can act with foresight of driving situations that is not achievable by human drivers."
Volker Bischoff, Middle East general manager and vice-president of Bosch, a leading global supplier of technology services, noted that automated driving impacts the entire car.
"Its powertrain, brakes, steering, display instruments, navigation and sensors, as well as connectivity inside and outside the vehicle are all involved," he said. "The key to success is an in-depth understanding of all vehicle systems."
Detailed maps
Bischoff said detailed maps are vital to the success of driverless cars.
"You wouldn't be able to use a regular navigation system map like the ones we have in GPS systems, as the maps both need to be a lot more accurate - down to decimeter precision - as well as updated in real time," he said. "The maps used in the cars we are testing automated driving with contain multiple layers. We refer to these layers as the base layer, the localisation layer and the planning layer.
"The base layer is essentially what a regular navigation system would use to calculate the best route from point A to point B. The localisation layer calculates the vehicle's position within a lane, while the planning layer accounts for all the parts of driving that would otherwise be manually assessed by the driver during the journey," he explained. "This includes tracking and responding to traffic signs, speed limits, different lane divider types, and the movements of other vehicles."
Bischoff noted that Bosch has successfully conducted 10,000 kilometres of driverless car test drives in Germany and the US without an accident.
"Our motivation for developing automated driving is and remains safety on the roads," he noted. "This means that relieving the driver of control of the vehicle in complex or monotonous situations can save lives. Our accident research predicts that by increasing automation, we can lower accident rates by up to a third."
Bischoff noted that the ultimate responsibility for introducing driverless cars lies in the hands of law-makers and car manufacturers, "as they would need to pave the way and make decisions on whether automated driving would be legal".
"The UAE, and Dubai, specifically, could be well placed to implement this kind of technology, especially in light of the goal of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that 25 per cent of Dubai's transportation should be driverless by 2030."

 Be prepared for new categories of crashes
Despite the fact that automation will likely reduce collisions, Professor Nick Reed from Transport Research Laboratory said it was important to note that the authorities need to be prepared for "new categories of collision". This is important particularly in the early stages of adoption of the technology, which in many cases still includes some amount of human control.
"One example is incidents caused by drivers' confusion when changing between different modes of automated operation. This type of error has led to aircraft crashes such as Air France Flight 447 and Eastern Air Lines Flight 401," he said. "In each case, pilots misunderstood the status of operation of the autopilot systems and failed to correct the aircraft trajectory before it was too late."
Additionally, Professor Reed noted that authorities need to be prepared for new and historically unprecedented types of accident investigations.
"We're entering a new era of collision investigation driven by data rather than human behaviour," he said. "Collisions involving automated systems will require a different level of forensic investigation from traditional accidents, and we'll need people with the right skill sets, as well as the right infrastructure to ensure data is captured and fed back to relevant parties in government and industry to improve learning, technology and regulation."

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