When speaking of autonomous cars (also called self-driving cars) today, you can’t help but bring up major companies like Google or Tesla, who are forging ahead in the industry (not to mention that Uber is trying to, as well); The two are in the forefront of creating self-driving cars, yet the race to achieve this technological milestone is shared by many other companies. With all this competition, it looks as if the end result is inevitable – but are these self-driving cars all that good?
Here are three arguments for why we should continue to pursue autonomous cars, and three arguments for why it’s not such a great idea.
Pro autonomous cars
The root of most accidents
Every ninety minutes, a pedestrian is killed by a car in the US. Whether it be texting and driving, DUI, road rage or any other distraction one may face while driving, it is safe to say that the main contributor to car accidents is the human driver himself. Self-driving cars remove human error, by giving cars the ability to be aware of surroundings and simultaneously plan the rest of a drive through GPS units and sensors. By creating a system that never gets distracted, falls asleep or speeds on the road, we can assume that there will be much fewer accidents than the current 6.3 million a year in the USA alone.
Ask Gail Devers – who won Olympic Gold in 1992 by .01 seconds – how important time is. Or, talk to a parent who may be juggling work deadlines and childcare, and you know about their awareness of the ticking clock; it’s safe to say that time is a pretty big deal, and it’s important to milk each moment for all they are worth. Autonomous cars allow us to use long drives – which previously required our undivided attention – to our benefit. You can take advantage of a trip by making up sleep, attending emails, shopping online – the possibilities are endless.
Autonomous cars can actually help you save cash. A decline in accidents will lead to a substantial drop in insurance premiums, and far fewer vehicles will need expensive repairs. Additionally, transportation and shipping will become cheaper due to fuel efficiency and no longer needing to pay driver salaries.
Self-driving cars will also see a large reduction in the cost of gasoline. These cars are programmed to drive in the most efficient way possible – meaning, they are more fuel-efficient by requiring less gas usage. With this new technology, many companies are even shifting towards electric autonomous vehicles, almost totally eliminating the need for gas altogether.
Against self driving-cars
Being completely reliant on technology is not always a good thing. We hear about hacking on a near-daily basis from the news, whether it be phones, websites, companies, or classified information that is compromised. Autonomous cars are no exception. Charlie Miller, a leader in the field of protecting against said car hacks, says: “Cars are already insecure, and you’re adding a bunch of sensors and computers that are controlling them…If a bad guy gets control of that, it’s going to be even worse.”
This problem doesn’t only affect cars that have personnel minding them. There are plans in the works for total, autonomous public transportation (cabs and buses). If these are hacked, the potential threat can be huge – impacting many individuals at once.
Affects other industries
Autonomous cars may significantly alter a wide range of industries. In the long term, attaining a driver’s license may no longer be required, which will eliminate the need for Driver’s Ed courses or programs. Additionally, cab drivers, bus drivers, and truck drivers may become superfluous – perhaps all driving-related jobs in general. Due to the projection of a decrease in accidents, auto repair shops and insurance companies will also feel the negative impact.
Ultimately, these autonomous cars will lead to a decline in or even collapse of many industries, estimated at affecting over 4 million jobs that are directly related to driving (not including the ripple effect).
A mother and her newborn son are in an autonomous vehicle, traveling down a main road. Suddenly, a child runs into the road ahead, directly in the car’s path. There are 2 options: The car either swerves to the side of the road into a barrier (killing the passengers but leaving the child unharmed); or, it stay on its current path, where it will kill the child and leave the passengers unharmed. What will/should the car do? The answer to this ethical question is important, because it could shape the way self-driving cars are accepted in society. Studies show that people prefer that these cars follow utilitarian ethics, but when asked what ethics their personal cars should follow, respondents’ answers change to “protect passengers at all costs.”
As of now, there are no laws regulating the ways in which these cars should act, and the decision is in the hands of manufacturers. In fact, Uber recently shut down their self-driving truck program, following company controversy and a tragic accident that left a pedestrian dead. From this arises another question: Will the car manufacturer be held accountable in an event of a moral dilemma?
Bottom Line: Autonomous cars will likely help simplify our lives and even save us some cash. Yet, their coming may precede the fall of certain industries and pose tough moral questions that we may not know how to answer. How do you think self-driving cars will impact you?