Self-Driving Cars: Will They Be Safer or More Hazardous?

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Imagine this, it’s Monday morning and you are preparing for your commute to work. You get into your vehicle, buckle your safety belt and suddenly your car says, “Good Morning!” and proceeds to reverse itself. You ride along your ordinary route and all traffic lights and signs are adhered to by your self-driving car. At one point a car darts carelessly into traffic and your car applies the necessary brake pressure to avoid the accident and you have yet to budge! Whew! Thank was a close call! Your car has been equipped with such sophisticated software that it is able to “sense” approaching danger.

This type of vehicle is termed an “autonomous car,” which is defined as an unscrewed vehicle, driverless car, or robotic care that is capable of fulfilling the main transportation capabilities of any traditional car. A vehicle such as this will add $7,000-$10,000 to the vehicle’s sticker price. In 2011, the State of Nevada passed legislation authorized driverless cars. Strict guidelines were placed on Nevada’s Department of Transportation to ensure that are safety precautions and regulations were implemented. The features are great, ratings are outstanding, but is this car “smart” enough to avoid every accident one is able to conceive? There are competing sides that argue whether the self-driving cars or SDCs will heighten safety or increase chaos.

According to USA Today, an overwhelming third of SDC sales will take place in North America in the year 2035. Promoters of SDCs suggest that the emerging use of this type of vehicle will:

  • Cause the decline of overall accident rates
  • Traffic congestion will decrease
  • Air pollution will become a thing of the past
    • They admit the 2 obstacles that will need to overcome are:
      • Software reliability
      • Cybersecurity
        • Two University of Michigan professors address safety by looking at the following four perspectives:
          • Can self-driving vehicles compensate for contributions to crash causation by other traffic participants, as well as vehicular, roadway, and environmental factors?
          • Can all relevant inputs for computational decisions be supplied to a self-driving vehicle?
          • Can computational speed, constant vigilance, and lack of distractibility of self-driving vehicles make predictive knowledge of an experienced driver irrelevant?
          • How would road safety be influenced during the expected long transition period driving which conventional self-driving vehicles would need to interact on the road?

 Adversaries of SDCs are not sold on the idea of putting all faith in a vehicle and suggest the following dangers are something to think about:

  • Studies show that 37% of passengers will experience motion sickness, although they have never experienced such sickness before. This will be attributed to those individuals’ freedom to do everything such as read, text, or play games rather than focus on driving. It would be as if they are on a fair ride.
  • Sophisticated hackers will have increased ability to steal these vehicles and control them from anywhere.
  • SDCs could be used by individual to inflict harm on others and cause potential disrupt when attempting to access fault or guilt.
  • As with any technology, the software may experience a glitch and cause roads to become hazardous.

Whether you are for or against the idea of your car being the literal chauffeur, it seems as if technology will soon “run the roads.” This modernization of travel is inevitable, so either conform to the impending norm or simply take great care of your old traditional car so that it will last for years to come. Look on the bright side; you can never give the excuse that you do not feel like driving ever again!