One Reason I Don’t Think Self-Driving Cars Will Work

There are plenty of opinions out there about why self driving cars are a bad idea or why they won’t work. One concern I haven’t seen voiced is one I’m seeing on the driver-assist systems on current cars. Most new Honda cars come with the Honda Sensing package, which includes things like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. These work based off of cameras and radar systems. Most other brands have similar systems.

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One problem with these systems is part of why I don’t think self driving cars will work. As the picture above shows, the car is warning that some driver assist functions are disabled because the radar needs cleaning. Just a little bit of dirt or dust on the radar and things don’t work. Obviously this would be a major problem for self driving cars, especially in areas with snow, because snow and ice get packed onto the front of cars all the time. If a self driving car is relying on working radar, there has to be some sort of failsafe, and/or a way of cleaning off the radar automatically, like a little windshield wiper or sprayer. But those can fail too, and aren’t effective against heavy snow or ice buildup.

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Salt-bleached road, how will the camera see the lines?

The camera for Honda’s lane departure warning or lane-keep assist is mounted behind the windshield, so most of the time it won’t have that problem as much because the regular windshield wipers clean in front of it. Once again, heavy snow or ice buildup, or wiper blades in bad condition that don’t clean well, will prevent the system from working. Furthermore, the car is judging what the lane is based on the lines on the road, but there are lots of roads where the lines are very faded or worn away, or smaller roads that don’t have any lines. I don’t know for sure but I could see the dry salt-bleached roads during winter causing problems because it would reduce the contrast.

I don’t want to have a self driving car, but if the manufacturers can figure out an effective, reliable solution to these problems, I’m interested in seeing what they do.


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-Dan

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