Self-driving cars are the next step in traffic development

The introduction of self-driving cars in traffic is the single biggest change in the history of automobiles. This still requires developmental efforts in technology, community planning and legislation. The revolution at hand can be divided into two phenomena: connected cars and self-driving cars.

A connected car is a vehicle with built-in features that assist or bypass the person in pre-programmed situations. Cars with the self-driving feature can also be described as connected cars. Self-driving is not the same as autonomous driving where the car drives to the set destination without human participation, even without a passenger. Self-driving refers to a feature where artificial intelligence can temporarily and briefly steer the car without human assistance. The function is switched on separately and usually includes a short time limit.

Tesla has been able to develop its self-driving feature the furthest. In the Tesla model, the car drives independently until it reaches a situation where human intervention is necessary for safety. The purpose of self-driving features is to provide active assistance in situations where driving the vehicle is monotonous, the vehicle ends up in a surprising situation or the driver is temporarily or permanently distracted.

The future objectives of Tesla include making self-driving a standard feature in all its vehicles. Other car manufacturers have also offered similar features in their vehicles, such as Mercedes Benz with its S-Class (W222). Other connected car features in vehicles already on the market include a lane monitor and the automatic emergency braking system of Volvo.

A robotic vehicle or a self-driving car refers to a vehicle which primarily or exclusively uses the self-driving function. Self-driving replaces active human steering either partially or completely or even prevents the vehicle from being driven in the traditional sense. Such self-driving cars have not yet reached the consumer market but their testing among passenger traffic has already started.

Industry has used similar robot automatics successfully for decades. The Port of Rotterdam, for example, is nearly completely automated so that any transport and loading of goods, crane functions and most of the other logistics operations are performed by robots and monitored by artificial intelligence. The cargo port area has so many automatically moving parts that, instead of focusing on the robots, the surveillance in the area guides people to prevent them from disrupting the robot traffic. Human drivers instead of other robotic vehicles are also the greatest challenge in the design of fully automated cars.

The upcoming renewals of smart mobility are not restricted to vehicles but require infrastructural and legislative development. The question is a symbiosis of technology and legislation where the changes must overlap and the development be built gradually.

Self-driving robotic vehicles are the natural and inevitable next step for the evolution of motoring. Transferring the previously human-performed driving function to a computer and artificial intelligence means integrating both the motoric actions of the driver as well as human thinking, power of observation, problem-solving capacity and ethics in the process.

Transforming the routine movements of a human into something a machine can perform is technologically quite simple. Vehicles already contain technology that, in some situations, replaces or bypasses human actions. True challenges come from replacing human power of deduction with artificial intelligence.

Kari-Matti Lehti

Mikko Leppä

Mikko Kaunisvaara
Legal Trainee



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