Car accidents occur due to several reasons such as drunk driving. As depicted in an article written by Katherine Hanna, “[d]espite attempts to educate drivers on the dangers of drunk driving and deter such behaviour through criminal punishment, there are still thousands of deaths attributable to drunk driving and how to prevent drunk driving ” . Companies like Google and Tesla try to tackle such issues and situations by implementing the concept of driverless driving.
Self-driving cars, also known as Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), is a developing and evolving concept, which has, however, been implemented to improve chaotic traffic conditions on roads. The implementers foresee efficient handling of impaired driving, poor traffic sense and mis-happenings alongside reducing human efforts. Easing out daily tasks has been a key motivation for several technological developments, and companies are constantly trying to achieve just that. The development of these driverless vehicles can be classified in five levels where level zero means there is no autonomy and level five means no human attention is required as the system has full control over its vehicle. Everyday corporations constantly try to reach level five so that transportation can be made safe and easy without any adversity.
AVs are essential for our society since they “enhance mobility” for the elderly and for those with disability and will reduce any traffic blockade thus this technology must be promoted and allowed to be used in our daily lifestyle. These automotive vehicles will constantly send data to other vehicles therefore being connected with each other and preventing any incident from occurring. With this being implemented, there will be no need for traffic police to be on the lookout since everything will be managed in the system. It will revolutionize the society completely, increasing the level of comfort all while still feeling safe.
When looking at the benefits that this technology could bring to people, the elderly and the disabled are two social groups that are benefitting from this. The problems that these groups share is transportation which either relies on a driver that helps them get to places or the public transit for which they have to weight even the extreme weather. Since these groups lack the ability make the appropriate judgment that’s needed when driving or making sharp turns, AVs are useful. Even now, the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organization is considering making laws that acknowledges an average elderly’s needs and accordingly ensure that the driverless cars are appealing to the elderly. This includes: Vehicles being affordable to elderly people on a fixed income, is accessible to whoever needs mobility aids and walking devices to get around and the manufacturers of AVs should commit to providing training to them about how to correctly use this vehicle so that they are safer to use since the human error element is completely gone . The elderly and the disability are not the only ones that can utilize this service since these vehicles “will [also] be able to act as a sort of combination of car rental, taxi and ride sharing service” so that everybody is able to use this service.
Human brain and machines vary in the level of accuracy, when it comes to following instructions. Humans will follow instructions with a possibility of making mistakes, whereas a well-programmed machine will minimize the possibility of any errors. The same idea is applied to driverless cars as they are programmed to detect objects and perform their tasks accordingly. These cars are continuously emitting electromagnetic waves such as RADAR beams, that bounce back to locate all the objects around them. Sequentially, with their pre-programmed algorithms, they act self-decisive and change the route or the speed of the car, accordingly. It also allows an automated car to “map out its surroundings” while regularly keeping itself updated.
Traffic jams are common and irritating in cities like Toronto and New York. Autonomous cars have the ability to provide a better traffic flow even on the busiest highways. There are several reasons as to why a traffic congestion occurs which includes, a sudden road construction, too many cars on the road or cars suddenly slowing down, affecting the traffic behind them. Since AVs know their surrounding through their electromagnetic beams, it can also influence other driver’s driving all while creating a smooth traffic flow and reducing traffic blockade: “an automated car could use its speed and position to control nearby vehicles as they merge. Or it could pace its speed to help prevent the random, human-caused slowdowns that increase travel time and frustrate drivers”. The risk associated with this implementation is that AVs will always follow the traffic rules and will never cross the speed limit since. It will also “wait for an efficient gap to merge into traffic where a human would bend the rules to make progress therefore autonomous vehicles will be more cautious”. This can create a lot of conflict between the AVs and other drivers, since everybody wants to get to places as quickly as possible, but AVs will hinder humans from doing that, therefore creating a lot of hate for the technology. In order to solve this problem, humans will have to get accustomed to this technology until it becomes the norm in the society to obey and follow the judgment of the AVs since they can sense the traffic flow.
This sensing of the traffic flow is carried out faster and more efficiently since a machine will have a greater reaction time than a human. As mentioned in an article, “[b]esides eliminating human error, autonomous vehicles may be able to avoid accidents because of better reaction times and shorter stopping distances”. Reacting to a simulation, an average person would take about 5 seconds to think and react, whereas, the computer acts as per the commands considering the car is a level 5 autonomous car. Since the given technology is trivial and is inexperienced of heavy traffic on roads, the Michigan department of transportation created a mock city of 32 acres for the cars to be tested out properly so that it handles every single problem it faces.
Currently, car manufacturers are only resourceful enough to produce a level 4 autonomous car. However, NVIDIA has created a computer that can help solve this problem. NVIDIA, a chip-making company, designed a computer that can allow cars to operate without any human effort. Its best feature is that it can deliver up to 320 trillion operations per second. All the automobile companies have now been using this computer to design their cars, hoping that it changes the concept of modern transportation. In addition to this computer chip, there is also the Autonomous Vehicle Control (AVC) safety system that is being considered by many automobile manufacturing industries. It “can be installed into any vehicle and tested for industry safety standards across the board, no matter who the manufacturer is, ensuring that it meets all safety standards”.
The main objective of these self-driving vehicles is to be able to prevent any accidents and follow traffic rules without any problems. If this goal is fulfilled, then it can have an overall long-lasting effect in the automobile industry. With these cars on the road leading to fewer traffic jams, people can practice a healthier lifestyle. Traffic jams have the tendency to make several drivers impatient and angry which ultimately affects how you drive when you get out of the congestion. Being impatient means, “Having to wait for the traffic to move or dealing with the mistakes of other [drivers] on the road can lead to resentment [and] anger,” which then later results in road rage and aggressive driving. In this situation, drivers become stressed and fed up with the congestions and commutes. With AVs on the road, the vehicles will know the optimal solution to reduce the congestion and increase the traffic flow and thus reducing stress amongst drivers. This can result in less time spent on the road without stress driving and quickly reaching to your destination and carrying on with your tasks: “An average person spends 101 minutes per day driving,”.
Not only do AVs prevent major traffic congestion, it also reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere since the electrification of the car is proven to be ideal for the environment. Internal Engine Combustion (ICE) based cars produce CO2 and consume fossil fuels on a daily basis. Electric cars, like Tesla, however, do not consume any fossil fuels or produce CO2 since they rely on electricity. This means more savings while preserving natural resources: “Due to the vehicle electrification, dependence on fossil fuel oil as well as vulnerability to volatile fuel prices is greatly reduced. Electric vehicles (EV) are significantly energy efficient than conventional ICE vehicles” (Vaidya & Mouftah, 2019). An Electric Automated Vehicle (EVC) will reduce more GHG emissions since the vehicle will travel smoothly without causing any traffic disturbance thereby influencing other ICE based vehicles to not suddenly slow down or brake. This reduces the amount of CO2 and fossil fuels consumption which ultimately makes the environment healthier.
In addition to transportation, AVs can also be used in farming through various vehicles that can execute tasks faster and more efficiently since the technology can chose to complete its work optimally. Farming is a delicate profession as farmers need to have the knowledge of land and seasons in order for the crops to grow perfectly. When an AI contains the same knowledge with better judgment skills and also has the ability to asses each crop and its condition while analyzing how it should be taken care of since “It uses sophisticated computer vision, data science and deep learning algorithms to enable farmers to make informed decisions”. This is all possible because of AVs since all the agricultural vehicles work together for the betterment of the crops and save time and energy growing/fixing all the crops: “The platform is capable of monitoring fields and finding early symptoms of uneven emergence, weeds, nutrient deficiencies, disease or insect infestations, water damage and equipment issues”.
The economy as well will be greatly contributed as mentioned in the article, “AVs will contribute some $800 billion annually ‘in economic and societal benefits’ when AVs are fully deployed. The benefits will come from cost savings related to reduced crashes, fuel efficiency and better access to transportation”. This shows that self-driving cars can lead to a better lifestyle.
Autonomous cars, to an extent, lack ethical decision-making in no-win situations where a crash or an injury is bound to occur. On this advancing journey where human emotions are being replaced by machines, instilling a similar level of decision-making and understanding is necessary to avoid any loss or damage. According to a resource in USA Today, “People are worried about the choices self-driving cars will be programmed to take.” This leaves us in an ethical dilemma since the computer won’t know what decision is ethical since it doesn’t understand human emotions. Another issue is that when it comes to liability of the crash, it is still unclear who should take responsibility for the crash as mentioned in the article, “Who is liable? Is the driver, the manufacturer or the computer?”. In contrast to all the advantages, it can also affect driver jobs and can increase the unemployment rate; however, system maintenance will open job opportunities for the public. One of the current drawbacks related to this technology is that it will take time to emerge and such automated cars are much more expensive than the pre-existing cars in the market. The replacement of manually operated cars with automated ones will certainly take considerable amount of time. Public trust, in such a technology at this point of time, is much less. According to a resource, “even if a self-driving car performs flawlessly at first, it is possible for the programming that runs the cars to be updated by the car company with a fault string of code”. Also, some people resist using technology and getting used to such technological advancement, to avoid constant tracking and monitoring for safety purposes.
To conclude, self-driving cars use an emerging technology that is evolving and being implemented for the betterment of our society. It can help ease the load of many transportation-like jobs, help raise the economy, increase the level of safety on the road and help the people with disability to reach places faster. Companies are now approaching the level of level-five autonomous cars and it will take long for it to be on the road. We are now approaching a world with a concept of automatic systems which will completely remove any human effort. These vehicles will implement this concept and soon everything will work in an efficient and systematic manner which will improve the way a society functions.