Tesla is working on self-driving cars!
Last year, my family and I bought a new car!
We ended up getting a Volvo XC90, but it took a whole lot of preparation before we settled on a car. We did countless hours of research, contacted many car dealers, and visited many car showrooms. We considered cars from Acura, BMW, Mercedes and many other car companies, but the one that caught my eye the most was Tesla!
When we visited the Tesla showroom, I’d heard of self-driving cars before but hadn’t actually seen one with my own eyes. My dad booked a test drive with a Tesla, and being in it was an amazing experience. (If you live near a Tesla showroom and have a driver’s license, you can book a test drive for yourself on the website!)
It seemed insane that cars could just navigate by themselves like that! Driving in sync with other cars, slowing down at the light, and parking at the touch of a button. * Think of all the benefits a technology like this could have on society if self-driving cars were everywhere! The more I thought about it though, the more I wondered — I know self-driving cars are great and have endless benefits, but what about the slim, slim, very unlikely possibility that they might just possibly not be all amazing like people say they are?
* Side note: Tesla doesn’t actually have fully automated self-driving cars. They currently have pretty advanced cruise control, but are working on complete automation.
Imagine what the future for cars could be like!
Let’s start from the beginning. From the first Ford car model to the latest Tesla, cars have been constantly evolving. They’ve been getting faster, more durable, and well, just better in general. Wait… Cars have been evolving so much, but why do 1.25 million people still die from road accidents every year? Well, the problem isn’t the car. It’s the driver.
Drivers are the only limit to cars. They’re the cause of literally all car accidents. However, with self-driving cars we would be able to prevent almost all car accidents from happening —just think of how many lives that could save! Self-driving cars have LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) sensors with 360° of visibility, plus a detailed satellite map of the city they’re driving in. Alongside the fact that they have super smart path planning algorithms, a self-driving car has dozens of times the perceptiveness and focus of a normal driver!
On average, 29 people die per day just from driving under alcohol in the United States. This means that it’s very likely someone has died in the last hour you’ve been awake. Self-driving cars can help change these stats. Cars can’t get distracted! Cars can’t get drunk! Cars can’t text and drive (well, I guess they technically could, but doing it wouldn’t distract them from driving) or nod off on the highway.
Cars are everywhere.
Self-driving cars seem like they could solve so many problems right? So many deaths could be avoided just by using self-driving cars. This is a win-win situation, if we do this millions of lives will be saved and nothing can go wrong!
But think again. I’ll bet that you took a taxi or Uber or something at least once this week. The average American spends $9,737 on transportation every year, and cars make up the majority of transportation that most people take. If that much money is going to so many people working in car service, think of how much that random weird taxi driver you saw the other day will lose. They’ll lose their job. They’ll lose their money. So many people will lose their jobs. And though self-driving cars are pretty awesome, are you really ready for a 2020 Financial Crisis?
The Problem with Autopilot
Besides the fact that people will lose their jobs, self-driving cars also promote bad habits. Take autopilot. Most cars have it in their systems nowadays and it’s pretty awesome! You get to sit back and relax, while the car does the work for you. Well, that’s what most people think, but not exactly. The autopilot is for assisting you to drive, not actually doing the driving. Many people are using cruise control unnecessarily. This promotes bad habits, and overtime people start paying less attention to the road. They don’t pay attention to the road, then when an unexpected obstacle appears, the human isn’t prepared to take over. Right now, autopilot might be doing the driving for you. But when you crash your car, you might not be so sure about that.
The Ethical Issue
Humans don’t have the perceptiveness of self-driving cars. Our reaction time is much slower, and our range of sight is limited. However, self-driving cars can see everywhere. They can see 360° of sight with a range of 150m. They can see in without any light, while humans can’t. This gives them an extremely good ability to be able to predict and avoid crashes and other accidents. What would happen if it couldn’t avoid a crash in time, though? What if it was stuck between the options of either killing a crowd of people, or killing one passenger?
This is the issue. If a human ran into a situation like that, they’d panic. For most people, they’d make a random decision based on nothing other than reflexes. Whether they killed themselves or 10 other people, the whole thing would just be an accident. Cars can predict crashes ahead of time, though. So if a self-driving car crashed and killed people, who’s fault would it be — Would it be the passenger’s fault for not stopping the car in time, or would it be the person who programmed the car? Until official laws are made, this is a question that holds back the potential of self-driving cars.
Waymo’s self-driving car!
I’ve probably put a ton of depressing ideas into your head. Though self-driving cars definitely aren’t as beneficial as people say they are, there are some major benefits for using self-driving cars on the streets.
Increase in safety
25 million people are killed each year due to traffic accidents. That’s the population of Dallas, Texas! If self-driving cars can reduce (and maybe even eliminate) road accidents, there’s definitely benefits to using self-driving cars more frequently. Besides the fact that more people will not be dead, a lot of money will be saved. In the US, the cost for treatment of a car accident injury is averaged to be $61,600 per injury. If 3 million people are injured from road accidents every year, just imagine how much money will be saved.
Decrease in traffic
Self-driving cars are smart. They can use AI to make the best route to get to your destination. Imagine if the roads were covered in self-driving cars — They would be able to have whole interconnected network of information. No car would be stuck again. If all the cars on the road were connected, they could together analyze their paths and use AI to develop the best way for everyone to get where they were trying to go, without traffic. The average commute time for Americans is 50 minutes a day. If commute time was cut down on, many of us would have much more time in our day to work on more meaningful things.
30% of all US emissions are caused by transportation. Self-driving cars may just be the solution to this problem. As I said above, self-driving cars are extremely efficient. They can find the most efficient ways to get somewhere, reducing travel distances significantly. This can also help cut carbon emissions. The less time spent on the road, the carbon is emitted! Another method that might just be the future to reduced emissions is “Platooning.” Birds fly together to reduce wind resistance and save energy — Well cars can do that too! By driving in a group and accelerating/braking simultaneously, there will be less aerodynamic drag which can decrease carbon significantly.
Self-Driving Cars: A Better Future?
In this article, I may have put a couple ideas in your head about the future of self-driving cars. However, these are mainly just fantasies. They won’t necessarily happen — they might not even happen at all. Believe it or not, what will actually happen is up to us to decide. We can create the future. Thinking ahead about the shortcomings as well as gains of self-driving cars is just a way to understand mistakes we might make in the future and ways to fix them.
Thanks for reading!
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