I have a degree in electrical engineering and much experience with automobiles. One thing certain about these devices, is that they occasionally fail.
The age of computers has taught us to unplug and reboot when a computer or phone quits operating correctly. It’s the number one choice when trying to fix a problem. When a computer “crashes” you may lose time or valuable data.
However, when a car crashes, you could lose your life.
Engineering and design
I’m well aware of the advancements and endless possibilities of electronic devices. I understand how these different devices and sensors connected to the proper cameras and lasers could do amazing things. Including driving a car with no human intervention.
My concerns about autonomous driving do not rest with the planning and development of these vehicles. There is no doubt such a car can be built.
We have GPS, adaptive cruise control, obstacle avoidance, and multiple cameras. We are warned of many pending situations we need to avoid.
When one of these systems malfunctions, the driver can override the system and adjust accordingly. For example, if the GPS tells you to turn right off the edge of a cliff, you can continue in a safe direction. If the adaptive cruise does not slow the car when getting too close to the car in front, you can turn it off and slow down.
I know nothing is infallible. I don’t consider that enough to call self-driving cars untrustworthy, and it’s not simply because I avoid change.
Mass production, unreliable parts, and poor repair technicians will be the major roadblock to autonomous driving cars. Engineers can design a fantastic system, but when the cost of production becomes more important than quality, we all lose.
Profit or quality?
Assume you have the plans and design for the perfect self-driving car. Once the car is mass produced, cost of production, parts, and repairs become the number one priority.
This means unreliable parts, shortcuts in production, and lack of proper diagnosis in a repair facility.
This is a proven fact
I personally have taken one of my cars back to the dealer five times this month because of a check engine light. It’s the same emissions code each time. It’s in the shop at the time of this writing.
Some sensor or switch or whatever is causing the problem. They have replaced many parts, but the problem returns. Having a check engine light come on just after it was supposedly fixed is aggravating.
Imagine this was a self-driving car that had just caused an accident. By this time, it would have caused five accidents because they still don’t know exactly what is malfunctioning.