Before we can discuss the viability of autonomous cars in Malaysia in the near future, we must first discuss how they work.
How do autonomous cars work?
Per Sypnosys, autonomous cars utilize sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems and powerful processors to execute software.
The sensors in question include radar sensors that monitor the position of other vehicles; LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors that measure distances, detect road edges, and measure distances; ultrasonic sensors in the wheels detect curbs and other vehicles when parking; and cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs, track other vehicles, and look for pedestrians.
All the sensory input is then processed by the software that controls the vehicle’s steering, acceleration, and braking.
Poor Road Conditions
Malaysian roads are known to be unsafe and rarely in perfect condition. Per the Malay Mail, here are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from shoddy work to unlicensed contractors doing the work. Now, how will autonomous cars deal with this? Per Sypnosys, autonomous cars are yet untested and might be unable to discern lane markings. Especially snow covered roads. What happens when there are no lane markings altogether?
Malaysia is notorious for bad driving. Malaysians often forget to signal, drive recklessly, tailgate, run red lights, and so on. As a result, we have the third highest death rate from accidents in South East Asia. These unpredictable driving conditions make it difficult for experienced drivers at the best of times. So can an autonomous car cope or would it misread signals and crash?
Tesla’s autonomous cars’ spate of crashes in the US is highly concerning. As these accidents pile up, we have to wonder what the problem may be. Elon Musk’s claims that the autopilot was not engaged in the most recent crash. Yet, choosing to withhold the data of said crash does not inspire confidence. If autonomous vehicles cannot drive in the US without encountering potentially fatal problems, can we be sure they can be driven here?
In sum, so long as Malaysians flaunt traffic rules, the roads remain poorly maintained, and problems with autonomous driving persist, it is unlikely that autonomous cars can be safely driven in Malaysia.