If you haven’t seen or heard the hype surrounding driverless cars, then pay attention because in just a few years we’ll all be sharing the road with robots!
Sounds too futuristic doesn’t it?
Well it was expected to be the next everyday luxury item in the firing line to adopt new technologies and pressures of environmental consciousness.
Companies like Ford, Google, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz have been testing autonomous vehicles across the world. Volvo trialled the driverless technology in Adelaide last year and it went off without a hitch!
Plus news in this week, RAC has unveiled its “RAC Intellibus” – Australia’s first driverless shuttle bus, which will be conducting a trial around South Perth.
Whether the concept of being driven to a destination leaves you feeling anxious or overly excited, then do yourself a favour and read more about the pros and cons of going driverless below…
The Pros & Cons of Driverless Cars
- In comparison to the myriad of bad behaviours a driver might exhibit behind the wheel, a computer is actually an ideal motorist. A large percentage of car crashes are the result of human error, so computers would take a lot of danger out of the equation entirely. Although it’s not clear to what extent lives would be saved, it’s obvious that human driven cars come at a very high cost in terms of danger.
- There would be a significant cost savings to the Government in many different areas like insurance costs and healthcare costs associated with accident recovery alone.
- Saves time! You can use the time while being driven to do other things, like catch up on reading, work or social chit-chat with passengers without having to worry too much about road safety.
- In order for the cars to operate most efficiently, they’d need to communicate with one another, helping to identify traffic problems or road risks early on.
- Disabled individuals, who have to rely on public transport or assistance from others to get around, could benefit significantly from self-driving cars with enhanced mobility and freedom, as suggested by the New York Times.
- Over time, higher speed limits might be considered as an option if more people are using self-driving cars. Since the computers calculate operation of the vehicle safely, driving time could be reduced by faster speeds allowed on the road.
- Massive savings could be recouped from being spent on older mass transit projects like trains.
- Police officer focus could be shifted from writing traffic tickets and handling accidents to managing other, more serious crimes.
- Sensors in the autonomous cars allow vehicles to ride closer together, therefore allowing more cars on the road with actually less traffic.
- Less parking structures and parking headaches would be required, since your car could actually drop you off and locate a parking space farther away.
- The line at the Licensing Centre would be cut short since people wouldn’t need a specialised driving license to operate these cars.
- There is a less of a concern about taking the keys away from Grandma when she gets too old to drive carefully, the autonomous car will take care of her!
- Just having the ability to operate a self-driving car would require an education on the driver’s part. While the computer takes over once the vehicle is operational, the driver would still be required to maintain some knowledge about how to operate it safely.
- The cost of implementing the new technology could be way out of reach for most. Currently, the engineering, power and computer requirements, software, and sensors add up to more than $100,000.
- The very security behind self-driving cars would be a major obstacle, especially because the technology would be of very high interest to hackers, as pointed out by the Guardian.
- In order for a computer to operate a vehicle, a lot of information would have to be stored on the software. Some individuals are concerned about the opportunity for a computer built into the self-driving car to collect personal data.
- A self-driving car doesn’t completely eliminate the likelihood of a car accident. In fact, there’s no legal precedent for how a case would be handled. The difficult question of who holds responsibility in a car accident- the driver? The car manufacturer? The software developer? Could be tricky to answer.
- The cars are not able to operate at a high level of safety in all weather conditions. In fact, heavy rain can do serious damage to the laser sensor mounted on the car’s roof, calling into question what role the driver might have to play in the event the technology fails.
- The reliance on technology could mean that over time, drivers are no longer equipped with the skills to operate cars. In the event of a technology glitch or recall, drivers might be helpless to get around, having been “out of practice” in the driving world for some time.
- Many individuals are nervous about handing over all the power to a computer, which could malfunction and put the driver in a more dangerous situation than if the driver were manning the vehicle himself or herself.
- It’s unclear how self-driving cars would manoeuvre through hazards like roadblocks or unique local driving laws. The computers could have difficulty identifying the different local and state rules with regard to the road. Same goes for interpreting human signals (by police traffic officers) when traffic signals fail.
- The success of self-driving cars currently relies on accurate mapping systems through GPS. As anyone who has been advised to turn down a one-way street or been told by their GPS they were driving on a non-existent street can attest, GPS devices are not always accurate.
- Some industries will see a decline in business, which could have a negative impact on the unemployment rate and the economy. Examples:
– gasoline industry as most autonomous cars will more than likely be electric (although this could be viewed as a win for the environment);
– personal injury lawyers as self-driving cars are safer and will reduce the number of accident on the road;
– driving instructors because there would be less of a need to educate people about how to drive;
– taxi drivers and general freight/public transportation industry as self-driving cars would substitute these services.
As is the case with everything, there are lots of pros and cons to implementing driverless cars on our roads and hopefully the above points helped highlight both sides of the argument.
The outweighing pro to the driverless argument is definitely the fact that it could potentially save human lives.
On the other side of the argument is the continuous love-hate relationship humans have with technology… can we really trust technology and all that it promises?
And on that point of technology, are we just falling deeper into the black void that technology has created? Will this just be another contributor to society’s obsession with technology and condemn us all to a life controlled by robots, computers, gadgets and the likes? Is this yet another opportunity for technology to remove the “human” aspect of life (as if that was even possible with automobiles)?
Surely the life-saving part of this discussion is the champion in all of this!
The companies leading the way with driverless cars still have a lot of testing ahead to ensure the kinks are all ironed out.
Nonetheless, the premise of driverless cars chauffeuring us around in the near future is an exciting one and one that promises a lot of benefits to improving human life.