- How will self-driving cars change our mobility world? The expert study “SocAIty” by the &Audi initiative provides insights
- Some myths surrounding the technology are widespread. What’s behind it?
- The &Audi initiative wants to create transparency and thus promote positive acceptance of the technology
Will self-driving cars soon be a reality? And how must people’s attitudes change for autonomous driving to be widely accepted? The &Audi study “SocAIty”, prepared with the help of well-known experts, investigates these questions, among others. And also clears up some widespread myths about the topic. What is true – and what is not?
A self-driving car will be like a regular car, only without a driver.
Aerodynamics are a key factor in terms of range, particularly in all-electric cars, and therefore continue to play a major role in design. In this respect, the appearance of cars and other means of transport will not change radically with increasing automation. One thing is certain: in the future, the focus of design will be on the interior design. There, the focus will be on the comfort of the passengers, whose seats will no longer necessarily have to face in the direction of travel in certain applications. This freedom in designing the interior offers the people on board a wide variety of options for individually designed experiences: communication or relaxation, work or retreat. Passenger space is maximized by removing everything that is no longer needed – pedals,
“Digitization enables us to make mobility even safer, more personal and, above all, smarter. The aim is for our vehicles to be seamlessly integrated into the everyday lives of our customers. In this way we create real added value by giving them back time for things that are important to them.”
Oliver Hoffmann, Audi Board Member for Technology
Once the software is developed and available, autonomous cars can go anywhere.
In order to get self-driving cars on the road, you not only need fully reliable and all-round secure software for the car, but also for the entire environment. The image of our cities will change step by step: To do this, the infrastructure must be expanded to include intelligent traffic lights and road sensors. Cities are becoming more digital , offering a suitable ecosystem for more and more automated cars. Cities are becoming safer and more relaxed because, ideally, traffic can flow without disruptions and congestion.
“There will be no revolution, but an evolution. Step by step in directions that are already recognizable.”
Eric Hilgendorf, SocAIty expert
Self-driving cars take away the fun of driving.
The idea obviously frightens car lovers: being condemned to become passengers and thus to inaction. They believe the machine would prevent them from driving their car across the country and enjoying the pleasure of feeling their foot on the pedal and their hands on the wheel. However, it is true that self-driving cars do not mean the end of all driving pleasure. No manufacturer will prevent its customers from driving their car themselves if they wish to do so. The choice of driving the car himself or handing over unpleasant driving tasks such as stop-and-go on the freeway to the car will remain with the vehicle owner in the future.
“Our job is to move people, not cars.”
Torsten Gollewski, SocAIty expert
Self-driving cars are a gateway for hackers.
no In principle, they will not be more vulnerable than those that are controlled by hand. However, the effects of a hacker attack on the safety-related systems of a self-driving car can be more serious. That is why the manufacturers are constantly developing protective measures against cyber attacks and improving the protective mechanisms inside the vehicle and outside in the backend. With the increasing networking of the car with its environment, the effort for reliable and always up-to-date cyber security is also increasing. At the same time, automated vehicles increase road safety – in addition to better efficiency and greater comfort, this is a benefit for society as a whole.
“The industry takes the issue really seriously. However, security of data must be considered end-to-end by development throughout the process and all other aspects of the business.”
Sam Abuelsamid, SocAIty Expert
Self-driving cars take up less parking space.
Self-driving cars will not require less parking space – but they will use it much more efficiently. In addition, the vehicle density in conurbations could drop if an increasing proportion of cars are used in sharing models. Background: According to the Federal Environment Agency, private vehicles are only driven for an average of one hour a day.
The technology has been developed, but there are still no laws on autonomous driving.
It is true that technological development seems to be progressing faster in countries like the USA or China than in Germany and Europe. But it is also true that the German legislature created a legal framework very early on that puts safety first when developing and introducing the technology. In this respect, Germany is even seen as a pioneer in international comparison. Since 2017, autonomous driving systems have been allowed, under certain conditions, to take over activities for which humans were previously exclusively responsible (SAE Level 3). In June 2021, a legal framework was created that recognizes vehicles from level 4 in regular operation on public roads, but only in defined areas (e.g. Shuttle services from A to B or “People Mover” buses on fixed routes). This law is a first step towards more comprehensive regulation, which is being worked on intensively. So the fact is: the authorities that implement the laws do not block the development, but simply follow the statutory principle that safety comes first.
“The German legislature is a global pioneer in the regulation of automated driving functions and thus offers manufacturers an initial legal framework for the development of such technologies.”
Uta Klawitter, Head of Central Legal Service and General Counsel at Audi
In extreme cases, autonomous vehicles can make life-or-death decisions.
With regard to autonomous driving, the decisive factor from today’s perspective is that it is not the car itself that decides, but what the human programs for the vehicle. The vehicle only maps what the software specifies. And this is where all previous studies show: Machines are significantly less susceptible to “human error” than humans, since they e.g. B. do not tire even on long journeys.
Many people are concerned with the question of whether and how a machine can make the right decision in a dangerous situation. However, it did not first appear with autonomous driving. It has been discussed in ethics for decades using the example of the “trolley problem” or “pointsman case”: The issue here is whether a pointsman may divert a train approaching a group of people to another track that also has people on it located – but less. Is his action in this constellation a crime? Would he then be doomed to do nothing? Or did he weigh things up correctly and prevent the greatest possible damage?
With autonomous driving, this discussion is now experiencing a comeback: According to the experts of the study, however, the central point in the debate is that in a dangerous situation the car does not decide itself, but only depicts what the human-programmed software specifies. It can and will always only adopt the ethical decisions and values of humans and apply them consistently – without their own interpretation.
“We have to move from a dilemma situation, which is more of a theoretical problem, to the actual problems affecting companies. And then it’s about liability issues and risk assessment.”
Christoph Lütge, SocAIty expert
Self-driving cars will be so expensive that few people will be able to afford the technology.
The development of autonomous cars involves high investments. In the short and medium term, this will of course have an effect on the product costs – but in the long term, i.e. when the product is ready for series production and the corresponding amortization of the development costs, the prices will fall again. In addition, with the predicted increase in traffic safety, there will be a significant reduction in damage – and possibly also repair and insurance costs. But the expected change in mobility use is also important: In urban areas, some of the vehicles that move autonomously will no longer belong to individuals but to mobility providers – or they will be shared by several people in sharing concepts. This also increases usage efficiency and will have a positive effect on the cost side.