Can Automakers Truly Hand Over Steering Wheel to Self-driven Cars?

Date : Aug 15, 2017 Author : Nikhil Kaitwade Category : Automotive and Transportation

A globally renowned German manufacturer recently unveiled its flagship model in July 2017 and this vehicle is on track to be the first with Level 3 autonomous driving.

There is little doubt that fully autonomous vehicles will significantly reduce the number of deadly accidents that are more often than not attributed to human error. However, experts fear that roads could become more dangerous with semi-autonomous vehicles that necessitate human intervention in certain situations.

The issue arises when drivers must take over the automotive steering wheel whenever there is heavy rain, highway lane markers have faded away, or when automotive sensors fail. Semi-autonomous systems could bring about a false sense of security and negligence amongst drivers and cause accidents when they might be busy beating their smartphone game high score instead of focusing on the road ahead.

This is a tricky situation indeed and several engineers have given up trying to automate the automotive steering wheel market. Companies such as Google have got rid of the pedals and steering wheel in their experimental self-driven vehicles. Volvo and Ford have announced their own plans to bring to the automotive steering wheel market vehicles that permit drivers to watch television and read. A number of companies are still undecided about whether they should dive headfirst into fully autonomous driving technology. Carmakers have adopted different ways to tackle this situation.


A globally renowned German manufacturer recently unveiled its flagship model in July 2017 and this vehicle is on track to be the first with Level 3 autonomous driving. This permits drivers to read a book in leisure or watch their favorite television entertainment programs while being stuck in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic. The car sends audio-visual alerts in an emergency and gives drivers up to 10 seconds to regain control of the automotive steering wheel. If the driver does not pay heed to the warning, the brakes are automatically floored and the seat belts are tightened.

Another German company has devised a Level 2 autonomous driving mode that should be introduced this year in their fleet. With this system, drivers can take their hands entirely of the automotive steering wheel. However, the vehicle checks every 10 seconds if the driver has touched two capacitive buttons on the steering wheel. If the driver has not, a reminder flashes on the vehicle dashboard and a repetitive bonging noise is made to get the driver’s attention.

Across the Atlantic in the U.S, carmakers are simultaneously committing big bucks to the field of autonomous driving. A prominent automotive supplier has stated that its semi-autonomous driving system is going to be introspective as it can monitor a drivers’ attention level with cameras after they press a button to surrender control. The system is capable of making audio-visual overtures in urgent situations, buzzing the seat, flashing dashboard warnings, and making noises. If the alerts are ignored, the vehicles can even use the cruising system to stop on the side of the highway or any other safe location.

Another supplier has been working with an automotive steering wheel replete with infrared sensors that can detect when the driver is clutching the automotive steering wheel. The supplier has programmed a vehicle to enable a self-driving mode when drivers let go of the automotive steering wheel and they can regain control immediately on grabbing it once more.

One of the most famous makers of electric vehicles has also stepped into the fray and has updated its vehicle software to make it clear to drivers that they must always have their hands on the automotive steering wheel. If the drivers choose to let go of the automotive steering wheel for more than 15 seconds, the vehicles will automatically reduce its speed and eventually stop. If the driver ignores several warnings, the vehicle disables the autonomous systems, meaning that the driver must be prepared to regain control at a moment’s notice – unless the entire vehicle is restarted. The company recently pushed out a software update wherein drivers need to show the turn indicator for automatic lane changes as well.

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