A driverless car is an automobile that has an autopilot system allowing it to safely move from one place to another without help from a human driver. Ideally, the only role of a human in such a vehicle would be indicating the destination. The implementation of driverless cars could theoretically lead to many improvements in transportation, including a reduction in car accidents, more efficient transportation, and an increase in road capacity. There are, however, many obstacles to successfully implementing the concept as a common and effective method of transportation. This is especially true in situations in which a car on autopilot would need to safely navigate alongside normal cars directed by human drivers.
To be useful, a driverless car must be able to navigate to a given destination based on passenger-provided instructions, avoid environmental obstacles, and safely avoid other vehicles. Some proposed methods for meeting these goals involve developing entirely new transportation infrastructures or substantially altering the existing infrastructures to accommodate driverless vehicles. One example involves developing a monorail system to which private vehicles can "dock." Upon connection, the monorail would guide the private vehicles to their destinations. This type of system would simplify navigation and collision avoidance but would require large-scale changes to the existing transportation infrastructures.
Other ideas for the development of a driverless car only involve the development of a new type of car and do not require any infrastructure changes. Such vehicles would operate like traditional human-directed vehicles and would not require more than minor infrastructure changes. For this type of vehicle to work, it would need to have access to some form of guidance system that would direct it to its destination. It would also need a short-range guidance system that would allow it to safely navigate through traffic without endangering its passengers or other drivers on the road.
There are many potential advantages to using a driverless car instead of a traditional human-controlled vehicle. A driverless car would not be subject to human error, one of the most common causes of car accidents. There would be little need for driver's licenses, highway patrols, extensive traffic laws, and even stop signs or street lights. Such vehicles would not be affected by jerky or erratic human drivers and would, therefore, be able to drive very close together. This could lead to a situation in which high road density would not have a detrimental effect on speed, so many cars could travel close together while maintaining a high average speed.