Self-Driving Vehicles

by Kipa Sherpa

car picture

Something I hear around more often nowadays is "self-driving vehicles". These are essentially cars that don’t need a driver in them. The idea is that they will be able to take you where you want to go by yourself without even having to move your hands. These types of cars are still in the development phase and are not open to the public however cars with some “self-driving” feature are. To me, self-driving cars are like an ideal picture of the future but something I could never imagine becoming the norm. To car companies, and technology firms, self-driving cars are the next big thing. The belief they hold in self-driving cars is that computers can safely operate a car better than a human can. However, a car being operated by a computer comes with some issue.

Getting the general population to believe in computer operated cars has not been an easy task. A deadly car crash that occurred in 2016 was another blow in the task of gaining the public’s trust. The car crash which involved the Tesla Model S electric sedan, killed the driver when the car was in self-driving mode (Vlassic, Neal). Tesla had introduced the autopilot feature in its cars in 2015 bringing the reality of self-driving cars one step closer. Now the autopilot feature was meant to be in use with your hands still on the wheel. Its reception was warm but some drivers started taking advantage of the system by not taking control of the wheel for several minutes. One of those drivers was the driver killed in the crash, Joshua Brown. An investigation into the crash by The National Transportation Board found that while the car did technically do what it was supposed to do in auto-pilot mode, its safety measure was not enough. The cause of the crash was found out to be the car’s system not recognizing the white truck from the bright sky. Though the car reminded Mr. Brown to put his hands back on the wheel, in the end neither him nor the car activated the brakes (Boudette, Bill).

tesla picture

The crash also brought up the question of whether the autonomous car would be able to make quick decisions to prevent a car crash in life or death situations. Tesla has since updated their autopilot system in a way that would restarts the car if the driver does not put their hands back on the wheel after three warnings. Tesla recognizes that their technology is still a test feature and that the autopilot is still new technology. (Boudette, Bill).

Yet there is still a rush from motor and technology companies to put out a self-driving car. Other names involved in the race are Apple, Google, Uber, and General motors. These companies have been testing their driverless cars on streets all around the world. For Apple, their first test vehicle would be their self driving shuttle which would be for employees only. The plan Apple had for a self-driving vehicle has taken more time then they initially thought it would. Initially, the car was planned to be an apple made car but now the company is focusing on underlying technology that would make the car drive by itself. Other debates within the company such as which language to use for the system and whether drivers would be able to take control in near death situations have been seen at other companies such as Google as well (Wakabayashi, Daisuke). The debate and issues surrounding self-driving vehicles leads me to believe that it will be another few years until a self-driving car is put out.

Companies involved in self-driving vehicles
Genral Motors

Companies involved in artifical intelligence Companies involved in Manufacturing Companies involved in both
Apple General motors Tesla
Intel Honda
Baidu Toyota


Vlasic, Bill, and Neal E Boudette. “Self-Driving Tesla Was Involved in Fatal Crash, U.S. Says.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 June 2016,

Boudette, Neal E, and Bill Vlasic. “Tesla Self-Driving System Faulted by Safety Agency in Crash.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2017,

Wakabayashi, Daisuke. “Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Aug. 2017,

First image is from (Valsic,Boudette).

Second image is from here