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商业 - 科技

无人驾驶汽车蓄势待发

Brian Dumaine 2012年11月14日

自驾汽车时代即将到来。届时,卡车可以组队自动跑长途运输;人们上下班的路上可以不用管车,干自己的活。就算聚会喝醉了也没事,车会自己把我们送回家。但是,一旦出了交通事故,到底是司机、还是汽车厂商,又或者说编写自动驾驶程序的软件公司来承担责任?这是个问题。

力拓公司位于澳大利亚的西安吉拉斯铁矿所用的自驾卡车

    自驾汽车很少会发生碰撞事故(至少在理论上确实如此),因此车辆可以造得更轻型化,无需笨重的安全框架,这意味着对钢铁的需求减少。随着安全问题不再那么令人担忧,汽车厂商将来还可以自由地作出新尝试,重新考量“何为汽车”这个基本概念。“为什么不设计一辆相当于车轮上的办公室的汽车呢?”美国加州大学戴维斯分校交通研究中心(Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California)创始人兼主任丹•斯珀林问道。

不出意料:自驾汽车的最大障碍是律师们。好消息是,这项技术应该会显著降低在全美各地公路上丧命的人数——目前这个数字每年超过3万人。根据美国汽车协会(AAA)的统计,美国人每年因车辆碰撞耗费高达2,990亿美元。可是,一旦自驾汽车真的出现事故,谁该负责任呢?消费者坐在方向盘后面,根本没动方向盘。相比他们,侵权律师们更可能盯上财力雄厚的汽车厂商和编写了相关代码的软件公司。斯珀林还指出:“自驾汽车带来了灾难性事故的风险”,这意味着汽车保险行业也得作出相应调整。随着事故发生率下降,且汽车厂商将会分担事故责任,车主们对汽车保险的需求将会下降。为了维持收入,汽车保险公司必须改变目标,转而向汽车厂商或编写相关代码的软件公司——取决于律师们更喜欢将谁作为被告——提供保险服务。

    自驾汽车的变革将是渐进的,但这一进程已然启动。我们已经看到了汽车中出现的小变化,比如车道偏航提醒系统和自适应巡航系统。或许在不那么遥远的将来,我可以在坐车上下班的途中写稿了。

    总而言之,自驾汽车从下面四个方面影响商业世界:

    1.卡车可以结成“车队”行使,彼此之间只维持12英寸的距离,从而降低风阻。燃油效率有望提高15%~20%.

    2.美国人平均每年在上下班路上花费250小时。如果汽车可以自动驾驶,这些时间以用来干活。

    3.由于自驾汽车将更为安全,它们将不再需要沉重的安全车厢,对钢铁行业来说这是个坏消息。

    4.保险公司得弄清楚谁来为交通事故负责:汽车厂商、软件设计公司还是GPS供应商?

    译者:黄兴宇

    Self-driving cars rarely crash (in theory, at least), so vehicles can be made lighter, without heavy safety frames, which means less demand for steel. As concerns over safety diminish, car makers will have free rein to redesign the very notion of what a car is. "Why not design a car as an office on wheels?" asks Dan Sperling, the founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis.

    Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing self-driving cars is, not surprisingly, lawyers. The good news is that this technology should dramatically reduce the 30,000-plus annual fatalities on the nation's highways. According to AAA, traffic crashes cost Americans $299 billion each year. But who will be responsible when accidents do happen? The deep-pocketed automakers and the software company that wrote the code are more likely targets for tort lawyers than the consumer sitting behind an (unused) wheel. Sperling says that "self-driving cars create the risk of catastrophic accident," which means the auto-insurance business will need to reboot. As accident rates fall and liability becomes shared with the manufacturer, drivers will see less need to carry so much insurance. To maintain their revenue stream, auto insurers will have to shift to providing coverage to the car makers or software firms that write the code -- depending on which tack the trial lawyers take.

    The change to self-driving cars will be evolutionary, but the evolution is well under way. We're already seeing small changes in our vehicles, such as lane warning systems and adaptive cruise control. Maybe in the not-too-distant future, I'll be able to write stories like this while commuting in my car.

    Four ways self-driving vehicles may change business

    1. Trucks could travel 12 inches apart in "platoons" that reduce drag. Fuel savings could reach 15% to 20%.

    2. Americans spend on average 250 hours a year commuting. If a car does the driving, that time could be spent working.

    3. Because self-driving cars will be safer, they won't need heavy safety cages. Bad news for the steel industry.

    4. Insurers will have to figure out who's liable in an accident: the car maker, the software designer, or the GPS provider.

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