For imagineers of the past, the 21st century was projected to be the era of the flying car. While that was how the family in the American cartoon The Jetsons got around, it is not exactly the reality of humans in 2016. To be clear, manufacturer Terrafugia is in the process of creating such a device, but it will likely be awhile for it hits the market.
Lucky for us, however, we have something somewhat closer to the world of the future seen in movies. Ride sharing company Uber debuted its driverless cars in Pittsburgh just last month. The technology is a combination of multiple cameras, a LiDAR system, which creates 3-D maps of the vehicle’s surroundings, and antennae for GPS. It is a robot on wheels, essentially, that signals a wave of what’s to expect in transportation over the next few years and decades.
For those concerned about a robot takeover that would make humans obsolete, we’re not exactly there yet either. Though Uber has made it clear that it does hope to cut down on its largest expense, its drivers, the car is not completely personless. During Business Insider’s test of this new mode of transport, there was an engineer in the passenger seat and a driver behind the wheel to take over, because robot’s don’t know everything and human interference is still necessary as the machine is tweaked to operate nearly as well (or better, depending on the situation) as a human would.
An example of such an issue was highlighted in Quartz, in which a self-driving Uber turned down a one-way street, unaware of the areas signs and/or rules. In another instance, a driverless car was involved in an accident, and again required human assistance. These situations show that there is still work to be done on this technology, but that is precisely why the company chose Pittsburgh as its starting point: because it’s old and at times difficult and hard to navigate.
As with all new technology, I imagine driverless cab will take some getting used to, but now is as good a time as any, considering the high level of interactions humans have with robots on a daily basis. With every passing generation, more technology is integrated into the natural course of our life. How we get from place to place is a natural part of that evolution. Wouldn’t you agree?