Is Society Ready for Self-Driving Anything?
The buzz surrounding the self-driving car debate is clearly not about to die anytime soon! Big tech and motor companies in the U.S. and around the world are seemingly on the verge of making the future of self-driving cars a reality. But are we really ready? Has everything been done to ensure the transition from human-driven cars to self-driving cars does not end up in a disaster?
Here are some of the key issues that transport authorities, legislators, drivers, motor vehicle manufacturers, tech companies, and other stakeholders will have to look into before fully letting go of the steering wheel.
1.The Safety Issue
According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), 94% of accidents are due to human error! Going by this statistic, humans have clearly been weighed and found wanting. Clearly, something needs to be done. The DOT, Google Car, Tesla and many other proponents of self-driving cars have told us that automation is the way to go. That self-driving car will reduce human-error and accidents.
If the safety issue doesn’t put you off (after all it is the likes of Google who are working on it), the price might. Sensors are generally expensive. Self-driving car sensors? Even more expensive. In an interview with Wired, Volvo CEO confessed that adding the self-driving functionality could increase a car’s price by about $10,000. That’s about half the price of a new Toyota Corolla iM (2018). Would you fork out an extra $10,000 to lose your driving experience? Probably not. Most people wouldn’t.
The pricey new functionality will probably hold back most autonomous cars enthusiasts until such a time when the technology is made more affordable.
Sensors, the “eyes” of autonomous cars, still have quite some ground to cover. As mentioned before, vehicle sensors are still affected by poor lighting, dark clouds, and other factors such as camera resolution. For the car to interpret the information gathered by sensors, its self-driving software needs to be robust and to account for all the possibilities including erratic human behavior (e.g. someone dashing across the street). Even industry experts agree that such sensing and driving systems are not yet with us and that it will take us years to make systems that can be fully trusted with human lives.
4.Possible Job Losses
Yes, the automated car industry will definitely create thousands of jobs, however, it has been reported that ten times more jobs will be lost because of automation. Think truck drivers, Uber drivers, Taxi drivers, and train drivers. Increase in car automation also automatically implies that car manufacture/ assembly becomes more automatic, resulting in massive job losses. Scaremongering is not cool, but these are actual possibilities.
There is obviously a need to reduce accidents and on paper, it looks as if the self-driving functionality could do the trick. However, there are still several key issues that need to be fully addressed for our society to fully accept and embrace the glittery future of self-driving cars!