Human species is currently standing on a junction, where it shall decide how it will further develop new technologies. Within the rapid technological evolution during last hundred years, human was designing technology to support him in many challenges - to lift heavier things, to reach further distances, to heal more people. With introduction of IT technologies, numerous visionary high-tech solutions entered homes. High capacity modern communication technologies allow human not only to share large amount of data, but also not to share any information - people share bytes, but according to social scientists they don't share valuable information as they did in past. While i.e. standard for road vehicle brakes had 8 pages in 1970s, current print has more than 80, but does not contain 10 times more information. Human has silently entered an era, where technology is often created for technology, not for human. In today's daily life, it is much more difficult to find valid and valuable information in data smog. Similar applies to road transportation - a socio-technological system, whose control is widely decentralized. We are searching for solutions to enhance transport safety and to increase infrastructure throughput in new technologies, while we forget that transport is not the source of the problem, but the consequence of human's need to move. Thus, the solution is not on a technological level, but on a system organization level.
One of the highly promoted technological solution is autonomous driving. However, if we study the literature we cannot find anything explaining the automation as the only right way and as an achievable solution to road transport problems. No in-depth interdisciplinary study exist about the influence of autonomous road transportation on the society. The numbers showing positive expectations have more economical and marketing background, rather than technological or social. Every new product or prototype is being promoted with standard marketing approach. MIT's social study on management in technological companies points out incompetent decision making on high levels of management primarily due to complexity of modern technological systems, which cannot be understood neither by one CEO, nor by number of narrow oriented specialists. Still, the evolution of autonomous systems in the past decade is at least interesting. We are already attacking physical limits of sensors. New algorithms have to pursue the chase for low energy demands. Yet, the human brain needs just about 25 Watts at full load, while it is able to perform highly complex and accurate probabilistic estimations. When driving a road vehicle, average driver does a mistake emerging into an accident once in ca. 270 000 km. This leads to an average driver's reliability of 99,99996% on a driven distance. According to several accident researches, majority of accidents is caused by minority of drivers. The proposed article is aiming to discuss the achievable safety benefits of autonomous driving in comparison with human driver and with changes on system level, thus pointing out the main pillars of comprehensive autonomous road transport study.
Dr.-Ing. Václav Jirovský, Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Transportation Sciences/Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, CZECH REPUBLIC