Our favorite thing about technology is the convenience it brings. You can cash a check in your pajamas in your bed or control the temperature and lights in your home remotely. We’ve reached an age of unprecedented convenience.
But what about self-driving cars? The ultimate luxury or ultimate death trap? The idea seems nice and would certainly free up a lot of our time (catching up on work or reading in the car) but are we ready to hand over the driver’s seat so easily?
We’re covering the Pro’s and Con’s of self-driving cars to show you ways this exciting (or frightening) development will affect the way we use the road.
More free time
We spend 17,000 minutes a year in our cars. It’s kind of disheartening. Imagine how that time could be used if you weren’t actively driving? You could respond to work emails, study for a test, read, or play a game. When you think about how much your time is worth, and multiply that by the amount of time you’re driving, you can see how much more sense self-driving cars make for your personal goals.
Fewer traffic jams
Many times traffic jams seem to spawn at random, without an accident, construction, or traffic light in sight. As Vox pointed out, a few different groups of researchers have found some answers to this mystery using mathematical calculations and experiments.
What they found was that many traffic jams are caused by a domino effect triggered by drivers going too quickly, and then the need to break unexpectedly. Each break down the line of cars is amplified just a little bit more, causing the traffic to eventually come to a standstill. If self-driving cars could save us from phantom traffic, that alone earns big points.
It looks like self-driving cars are actually a giant step towards safer roads. Since 94% of accidents (in the U.S) are the result of human error, a computer could actually be the ideal motorist. After all, a computer doesn’t get tired, distracted by conversations or texts, and is always sober. You can also trust a computer not to make poor decisions based on emotional response.
This being said, many people are highly critical of artificial intelligence’s decision-making capabilities. Surely, a self-driving car will eventually encounter a situation where it cannot react intelligently (like swerving from hitting one pedestrian, only to hit another).
Even with the incredible capabilities and complexity of today’s technology, it doesn’t make it invincible to pitfalls. The possibility of self-driving software being vulnerable to hacks is a major concern for many people, and understandably so. We’re already aware of computerized cars being hacked, but what kind of vulnerability would we be exposing ourselves too by having self-driving vehicles?
In the event that a self-driving car does have an accident, and no human interference was involved, who is responsible? Policy experts say that the companies behind the software and hardware are at the top of the liability chain; not the car owner or the person’s insurance company.
Eventually, carmakers will also have to shoulder the blame. In any case, self-driving vehicles still hold many questions when it comes to liability and insurance. Moral issues also come into play, especially if the car has pre-programmed permission to take another life (or lives) in order to save yours.
Even if everyone is on board with self-driving cars, the cost of this new technology would be well out of many people’s reach. The engineering, power and computer requirements, software, and sensors add up in excess of $100,000. As wonderful as the possibilites are, they have a long way to go before they are a feasible option for the largest category of consumers.
Loss of jobs
If self-driving cars were to replace public transportation or take the place of services such as Uber, Lyft, and taxis, it could put a significant dent in employment for those in the transportation industry. It will most likely cause a big shift in the way fueling stations are used as well. Jobs coming from those sources could also decline.
All things considered, self-driving cars might be the inevitable future of transportation. Like many technological breakthroughs, it’s usually only a matter of time before it takes hold. However we feel that given the complexity of the driving environment, legal and moral issues, it may take a while before the technology is publically available.
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