Like it or not, autonomous vehicles are coming. Between Google's various efforts and the constant evolution of automaker prototypes, it's only a matter of time before computers take the wheel. Don't get us wrong, either. That's not entirely a bad thing. While U.S. traffic fatalities have fallen to their lowest number since 1949, the reality is 32,310 Americans lost their lives in traffic incidents last year alone. That number marks a decline of around 26 percent since 2005, and analysts believe much of that fall is due to drivers traveling fewer and fewer miles.
So, what if people weren't forced to drive at all? What if a computer, which can't be distracted, never grows tired and is always at peak performance, took over the mundane task of dragging warm bodies to work every morning or off to vacation every summer? Where would our traffic fatalities be then?
In the latest TEDTalks video, Chris Gerdes speaks about how he's been part of a team that's seen Audi tackle Pikes Peak and build autonomous drift cars. But researchers have found something interesting by studying real race car drivers in the cockpit. Namely, human drivers continue to be better at instinctual manipulation of a vehicle than their autonomous counterparts.