Have you ever wondered what transportation will be like in the next decade? Will there be an increase in electric cars, or will self driving cars be the new norm? The field of technology and engineering is constantly advancing everyday, and with those advancements come new innovations that never seemed possible twenty years ago. An example of this is self-driving cars. Self-driving cars have been in the making for many years, and there has been numerous amounts of debate concerning the overall safety and functionality of this innovation. When the idea of autonomous cars first came out, there was a lot of skepticism and controversy over the safety of these “future” cars. Many people, including myself, thought these machines would wreak havoc on roads by causing an abundant amount of software-related accidents. Furthermore, many people were frightened over the fact that cars would be essentially “driverless”. However, over the past year, engineers have worked tirelessly over these specific safety issues, and as of right now, they confidently believe that autonomous cars are the future of transportation. In addition, many scientists believe that autonomous machines will greatly reduce accidents caused by both inexperienced drivers and drunk drivers due to the different resources they provide. With the great advancements scientists and engineers are making with self-driving cars, they are changing the way we view transportation, and as a result, we should embrace these changes due to the inevitable growth of autonomous cars that will greatly benefit our society in a positive way.
One of the main reasons why autonomous cars are heavily talked about is because of their great potential to reduce any kind of accident caused by younger generation drivers. In the article “How Safe Are Self-Driving Cars?” by Jeruld Weiland, for example, we learn that Waymo (Google’s Self Driving Car Program) “has only produced one accident in over two million miles on U.S. streets, making it the lowest at-fault rate of any driver class on the road.” Additionally, Weiland states that “the at-fault rate is 10 times lower than our safest demographic of human drivers and 40 times lower than new drivers”. As we all know too well, teenagers are the most vulnerable to accidents due to their inexperience behind the wheel, with as many as 8000 deaths per year caused by drivers between the ages of 16 and 20. Even with all the mandatory driving education provided by the state and federal governments, there is no way to prevent human-error accidents from happening. However, if we exposed teens and other new drivers to the road with the help of self-driving technology, they can gradually learn the real world application of driving with 24/7 assistance, and if trouble does arise, the autopilot technology will be able to take over. In addition, “unlike a 16-year-old driver, autonomous vehicles know what to do in countless road scenarios, never forget their lessons, and never get drunk or text.” These machines will also give parents the ability to set restrictions on a car, such as speed limit, the amount of miles a car can drive within a day, and curfew time. With all these features, teens’ decisions will be closely monitored and protected, ultimately resulting in a healthy future where there are less accidents and more safe driving.
Self-driving cars also have the possibility of eliminating drunk drivers. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that “35,092 people died in traffic crashes in the United States, including an estimated 10,265 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (0.08 or greater), making alcohol-impaired driving account for 29% of the total vehicle fatalities” (“Drunk Driving Fatalities”). That’s almost around 30 people losing their lives each day. Many people argue that all of these fatalities could have been easily avoided if people under alcohol influence chose not to drive, or if they chose to use other means of transportation such as subways, taxis, and buses. However, even with different sources of transportation, people still need to find them which can be just as dangerous. A way to solve this problem is to implement the technology of autonomous cars into our world. Imagine if taxi companies such as Uber and Lyft incorporated self-driving cars into their business. This would give individuals the power to “call” taxis using applications on their smartphone, resulting in the car seeking the individual, not the individual seeking the car. Likewise, with more self-driving cars being available during the late night hours where human taxi drivers are very limited, people who drink can have a safe way to travel to different places. According to Joe Manna from Local Motors, “if we prevent only 500 drunk drivers from getting on the road and causing a fatal accident, we can potentially save 1000 lives” due to drunk drivers’ tendency to provide rides to other people who are intoxicated (Manna). By providing many self-driving automobiles and self-driving taxi services, we can eliminate the drunk driving carpool effect, which will eventually save a countless number of lives.
Even with all the benefits autonomous cars can provide, there are still some glaring weaknesses that critics love to expose. First of all, self-driving cars are incredibly expensive, and it would be awfully hard to convince consumers to empty their wallets for a new machine that still provides a sense of anxiety. Even with all the milestones engineers and scientists are making with autopilot software, it will still take time for people to get used to this new innovation, just like how it took time for people to get comfortable with airplanes. Nevertheless, there is a way for consumers to experience autonomous cars without using a lot of money and a way to reduce their anxiety. That solution is Uber, and as of right now, Uber is aiming to have the majority of their self-driving cars on the road by the end of this year (Chavez). With this resource, consumers will be able to get a glimpse of what autonomous cars will be like, and it will give them a sneak preview of what cars would be like in the next couple of years. Lastly, as more car companies design and produce autonomous vehicles, prices will eventually drop due to more competition and availability. Even though the development of this innovation has taken years, the overall product will be worth it.
The concept of self-driving vehicles has been in development for many years, but now, it’s time for these innovations to revolutionize our transportation system. With all the tests and discussions supporting scientists’ claim that autonomous cars can positively benefit our society by preventing less accidents caused by teenagers and by providing a source of safe and reliable transportation for people under the influence of alcohol, it only seems right for this technology to be implemented into our daily lives. There’s no denying the fact that autonomous cars are steadily increasing; we can clearly see this through companies like Uber, Tesla, and Google, who are already devoting most of their time to autonomous cars. The rise of autonomous cars is inevitable, and as citizens of a changing society, we must embrace the change for the better good of our society.
Chavez, Michelle. “Uber prepares next generation of self-Driving cars.” Fox News, FOX News Network, www.foxnews.com/auto/2017/11/03/uber-prepares-next-generation-self-driving-cars.html.
“Drunk Driving Fatalities.” Responsibility.org, www.responsibility.org/get-the-facts/research/statistics/drunk-driving-fatalities/.
Manna, Joe. “How autonomous vehicles can help reduce drunk driving | Local Motors.” Launch Forth, launchforth.io/blog/post/how-autonomous-vehicles-can-help-reduce-drunk-driving/1998/.
Weiland, Jeruld. “How Safe Are Self-Driving Cars?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 May 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-safe-are-self-driving-cars_us_5908ba48e4b03b105b44bc6b.
Photo Credit: https://qz.com/943899/a-timeline-of-when-self-driving-cars-will-be-on-the-road-according-to-the-people-making-them/