Self-driving cars are no longer just the realm of science fiction anymore, this new technology of cars is real and will be on roads very soon. There has been a flurry of news about this new technology in the media. Some believe that next year we will see these cars in the roads and some believe we need more time. A range of technology companies are leading different mechanical endeavors to build up these cars, examples of these companies are Google, Ford, Uber, Tesla and many more. Self-driving cars technology has been developed and tested on many roads in the last years and with this advancement, these cars will be in the hand of everyone and that may be very soon! With this intro of self-driving cars, the question that may come to our mind is how will self-driving cars impact our society? To answer this question, we need to know everything about self-driving cars and understand how this technology works.
The history of self-driving cars goes back to the middle ages even before the creation of the car when Leonardo De Vinci sketches a rough sketch of a self-propelled cart. What was in De Vinci’s mind is now really on the roads with a high advancement. The first company to announce that it will produce this new technology of cars was Google naming their project WAYMO. WAYMO’s journey was described on their website that “We’re working towards fully self-driving cars that make it safe and easy for everyone to get around. Our journey started at Google in 2009, and we became Waymo in 2016.” Now, it’s eight years later from Google announcement and self-driving cars are being tested on the roads as Waymo had announced in May 2017 that self-driving cars have driven more than 3 million miles on public roads. Andrew J. Hawkins who is a transportation reporter, in his article named “Google seeks Nevada’s OK to test driverless cars” he states that Waymo is ahead of its competitors in public testing the self-driving cars and the improvement of Waymo’s technology is coming as the company plans to. Hawkins goes on to say that one of Waymo plans was the first debut of a self-driving car at “Detroit auto show” in January 2017. Waymo and other companies are now in the progress of self-driving cars technology and with this technology, society will someday experience transportation as never seen before.
As we know, self-driving cars are in the progress of testing and they will be available for personal purchase in the coming years, we may think about how can you move a car without a driver, how does this new technology work? For sure those self-driving companies are not all the same in the details and designs, but mostly the car system creates and maintains a map of the surroundings by using sensors and cameras. In an article named “Self-Driving Cars Explained” the article mentioned that after using the sensors ” Software then processes those inputs, plots a path, and sends instructions to the vehicle’s actuators, which control acceleration, braking, and steering.” So self-driving cars are controlled by a software program and since it is so, does that means it can be hacked easily? Danielle Muoio, a reporter in her article called “Self-Driving Cars Are Prone to Hack” mentioned that for example when talking about the self-driving car by Uber, this car uses more than 20 cameras and sensors to scan the surrounding, “even if a hacker compromises one or even a few sensors on a self-driving car, the car may still be able to pull enough information from the ones that are operating effectively to continue driving safely.” Moreover, the producer David Leveille has mentioned that Charlie Miller who is automotive security researcher and he did hack a Jeep Cherokee via its internet connection argued that self-driving car’s security will require fundamental changes to their security to make them safe from hackers. Miller was sure that automotive researchers already understand the problem of hacking pretty well and know how to make these cars more secure. When Miller was asked if he will trust a self-driving car and jump into the back seat letting a software program drive he said, “Absolutely, I would get in. I would much rather have a computer driving a car than a person because I’ve seen a lot of really bad human drivers out there.” That means that self-driving cars will be very secure and not easy to be hacked and sure, companies are working in developments to these cars and secure them more.
While self-driving cars mostly work with sensors and software, even if they are secure from being hacked, but are they safer than a real driver? Recently most accidents are caused either by a mistake or poor decisions made by humans. Bryant Walker Smith who is a member of the US Department of Transportation Advisory Committee said that “Some ninety percent of motor vehicle crashes are caused at least in part by human error.” So, since the accidents are mostly human errors, with self-driving cars are we going to have less accidents? In the article “Self-Driving Cars Explained” it described how safety is an overarching concern they mentioned that “Many thousands of people die in motor vehicle crashes every year in the United States (more than 30,000 in 2015); self-driving vehicles could, hypothetically, reduce that number—software could be prove to be less error-prone than humans” We will get rid of the accidents that are because texting while driving, calling, music, eating while driving, and of course, driving under alcohol effect. Drinking and Driving is a big problem that our society face it every day. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website they mentioned that “In 2015,10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United State.” When we consider these numbers of accidents due to human errors, Self-driving cars will be a viable solution that will save a lot of lives and reduce the number of accidents. Adrienne LaFrance, editor of The Atlantic said that researchers estimate that self-driving cars “could save 29,447 lives a year. In the United States alone, that’s nearly 300,000 fatalities prevented over the course of a decade, and 1.5 million lives saved in a half-century.” Meanwhile, Google claims that Waymo cars will reduce traffic accidents by 90 percent (Waymo) Based on these numbers, self-driving cars will reduce the numbers of accidents and deaths significantly. Self-driving cars will be very beneficial to our society, but is safety the only benefit of this cars?
The benefits of self-driving cars are still hypothetical as the cars enter the market the benefits will emerge. In the article named “The 3 Biggest Ways Self-Driving Cars Will Improve Our Lives” the writer Thompson stated that Coelingh, who helps lead Volvo’s self-driver car program, said that this car’s system will bring more advantages than disadvantages. Coelingh mentioned that “Self-driving cars will make driving more efficient on all fronts.There’s potential in efficiency, efficiency in terms of better traffic flow, but also, less fuel consumption.” With self-driving cars, the chance of an accident will be less, therefore traffic congestion will be less. With that, there will be a must improve to the roads and highways surrounding the self-driving car. A speaker of Waymo has described our roads as “dumb surfaces”(Waymo) and many changes are required. Changes and improvements are being made on California roads. In an interview with Dougherty, a man in the department of transportation in California, when asked about how California is improving its roads in order to support self-driving cars he mentioned that the significant change will be “increasing the width of those lane lines from four inches to six inches”(Craig Miller). Dougherty also mentioned that there will be many changes and improvements to the roads as long the self-driving cars are on the roads. Meanwhile, self-driving cars do everything by themselves and don’t need a driver most of the time, you will not lose your time in driving and at this time you can do anything you want. According to an article named “Driverless Highways: Creating Cars That Talk to the Roads.” the article mentioned that “In the driverless era, intelligent highways will be able to accommodate 10-20 times as many vehicles as they do today.” While the traffic congestion is less and highways are intelligent you will need less time to reach your destination and that will save you a lot of hours. Self-driving cars will be very beneficial, they will reduce the number of accidents, save us more time, and improve roads and highways to become safer and faster.
Self-driving cars appear to be so beneficial to our society and will make a significant improvement to the transportation. This new technology will have many effects on the economy. The first effect will be the jobs, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Economics Research, “When autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year” (Balakrishnan) The drivers who will be affected will lobby against self-driving cars legislation to protect himself from being without a job, because that Google will be affected. Google has spent a lot of money in order to pass the law of allowing self-driving cars. As a result of that, California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada were that first states to pass laws regarding the self-driving cars. California law required that safety driver is required in the car, but in October 2017 California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released “a new proposal for updates to its autonomous vehicle policy that would allow companies to deploy vehicles on public roads without drivers”(Marshall). This new law gives concerns to people about if these cars are safe enough. Jonathan Handel who is a professor at the USC Gould School of Law said that “Google and the automakers say ‘trust us,’ but that’s not good enough: The auto industry’s safety record is terrible, and Google’s own record of compliance on a related issue — privacy — is tarnished as well” (Good.)
Other concern regarding self-driving cars will be how does this technology will affect the insurance? In March 2017 an accident involving a self-driving car making people think about the liability and insurance companies. Warren Buffett, whose company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns the insurance giant Geico, said that “If the day comes when a significant portion of the cars on the road are autonomous, it will hurt Geico’s business very significantly” (Self-Driving Cars.) And that seems to be true if there isn’t a driver inside the car, we will not need insurance policy anymore since the insurance rates are calculated based on the driver records. Noticeably, self-driving technology is still in its earliest stage so that will take time until the government and companies come to complete assent based on the good of our country.
Eliminating the driver, offering safer, less accident, very improve roads and highways and saving people a lot of time. Changing the normal design of cars and turn them to the use of the software. Self-driving cars are paving in the way for the future of our transportation system.When you hearing this, it may seem like a dream right now, but technology always amazes us. By considering how many companies are doing research and losing money for the production, improvement and the approval from the government for this self-driving technology, we understand that this technology will take only a few years until it comes to reality.