Have you ever imagined the possibility of Self Driving cars in Nigeria?
Some may even argue that we have a lot more indigenous issues to deal with than talking about autonomous cars. Sounds true but, if the world is evolving and Nigeria is in the world; time is the only limitation to the possibilities of technology in the country.
Over the last few years, artificial intelligence and automation have affected the way we live as humans—from the way we work to the structure of our homes, self driving cars and the possiblities of an endless list only limited by our imagination. Robots and machines are taking the place of human labor in processes like food production, car assembly, security and in driving too as autonomous cars look like the next phase for automakers.
Self-driving or autonomous cars are cars that can drive themselves; drivers are not needed for their functionality and mobility. As defined by Wikipedia, “an autonomous car is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input”. But it is argued that what we have now are ‘automated’ self-driving cars that still need human interventions or drivers to function and not ‘fully autonomous’ cars.
Would you believe if I told you that the idea of autonomous cars is dated back to 1920s? There have been numerous experimental trials in the 1950s through 1980s (in which the first true closest-to-autonomous prototype car appeared) and till date scientist are not relentless. These driverless vehicles are built with the capabilities to sense their environments and navigate around without human intervention.
According to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), self- driving cars are classified into six levels; levels 0-3 are automated cars with human driver and drive assistance sharing some responsibilities while level 4 cars are highly automated with human assistance only on request. Finally, level 5 cars fully autonomous with no human intervention.
It is fascinating that these cars evolve in newer trends faster than expected as some of the wolrld’s biggest automakers like BMW, General Motors, Volvo, Tesla Autopilot, etc. are already testing prototypes. The good thing about these autonomous cars is we might not even need driver’s license to use the cars, as it will be controlled using mobile devices to detect location and destination.
While everyone is excited about this innovation, some countries making some legislation to incorporate it and allow testing of these cars on public roads, the question is how ready is Nigeria to embrace this too? Is Africa ready? But before we even think autonomous cars in this country, some things have to be put in place.
Good road networks: The truth is, in Nigeria, a good road network is still a luxury. With the majority of our current road network, you will be taking a huge faith leap to bring a car and not have fears that it could have issues due to bad roads. The roads still lack clear markings; road signage is inconsistent or non-existent and in some instances, a well-marked, two-way tarred road can suddenly squeeze down into a narrow, winding and dusty track.
According to the World Bank transport infrastructure benchmarking index, more than half (13) of the top 25 countries with poorest roads conditions are African.
But unless the endemic corruption is weeded out, and regulations tightened, the prospect of fully autonomous cars ferrying passengers across African cities may remain a myth
– Phillimon Zongo
Electricity and Internet: These driverless cars are usually designed to connect with one another via Vehicular Communication System (which uses vehicles and roadside units as a node of communication) which enables them to share information about traffic, weather, road conditions etc. obtain from vehicles within the same vicinity so as to avoid road danger. For this, the country needs a workable and accessible internet and electricity.For now, stable power is still a major issue in the country. Fully autonomous cars may not be feasible until important infrastructures like this are put in place.
Functional Traffic Lights: Driverless cars have built-in sensors like light/radio detection ranging (ridar/radar), computer vision, preloaded map, GPS, Ultrasonic sensor, etc. that enable them to learn and navigate its environment. The connectivity enables the vehicle to get access to the cloud for information sharing and a control Algorithm which enables the vehicles to interpret the information gathered by the sensor and connectivity—this guides the vehicle in decision making process. Hence, there shouldn’t be a case of malfunctioning traffic lights because it aids autonomous vehicle in knowing when to stop at junctions and when to move.
Well trained Auto Engineers: for the maintenance of such vehicles, engineers with adequate technical-know-how are needed and here in Nigeria. It is arguable that we still have a dearth of self driving cars engineers with good knowledge of the technologies and equipment for fixing and maintaining these vehicles. Maintenance of the car is not a job for a roadside mechnanic.
Cost: Self driving cars are not cheap. It will be quite expensive. However, this may not be an issue in the long run because some of the most expensive cars have found their way to the streets of Lagos.
Insecurity/ Unemployment: Adoption of the driverless car technology in Nigeria will take a lot of time. It will need a lot of education and advocacy.Even in the advanced countries where tests have been carried out, people are still skeptical about driverless cars and how safe it is/can be. The question of job loss is also another main issue that will always come up when conversations about the evolution of Machine learning and artificial intelligence come up.
As fascinating as the Technology looks, how close are we?
So what do you think? Have something to add?
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