Technological Progress: Self-driving Cars and Possible Harm for the Health


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The future is here, technology is rapidly advancing to many different forms and can change the lives of people in this day in age. Technology is changing everything including one of everyone`s biggest investment in their lifetime, their own cars. Cars have been around since 1885 and over the year’s technology has been changing the way cars look, drive, and work. Recently with newer developments in technology, there has now been some self-driving cars on the road and more manufacturers are pushing to manufacture and develop self-driving on the road as soon as possible. The technology used in self-driving cars are very complex systems and while they will change the way people drive, they might not be that safe enough for people to use. People are usually on the front with technology so it would make sense that they would not mind self-driving cars, however the technology in self-driving cars are very abundant and complex which may lead to some problems. The technology in self-driving cars are a good way of transportation however with the amount of technology inside of them, they may pose a risk to the passengers inside the vehicle because the technology can be flawed, hacked, or dangerous.

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While technology is helping people in their current lifestyle, it is not safe enough to assume that it will help people using self-driving cars. The problem is that since self-driving cars are relatively new, nobody can prove that they are smart enough for anybody to use yet. Brian Strassburger, a writer from The Jesuit Post says that “How will we program self-driving vehicles to confront situations where an accident is inevitable? What if the outcome varies based on different maneuvers?” (Strassburger par. 22). What Brian talks about is how will programmers decide to tell the car what to do in an extreme circumstance, to give an example what if a self-driving car was going down the road than needed to brake but unfortunately the brakes failed and have two options, either going to hit an oncoming vehicle or hit a group of pedestrians? The point is, the human mind is more complex than current technology and will make assumptions based on which decision is correct, or not. Rodney Brooks is a roboticist and artificial-intelligence researcher who directed the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He states that “Even with an appropriate set of guiding principles, there are going to be a lot of perceptual challenges … that are way beyond those that current developers have solved with deep learning networks, and perhaps a lot more automated reasoning than any AI systems have so far been expected to demonstrate,” (Madrigal par. 3). To give an unfortunate event that had happened, a Tesla which was in autopilot was driving down the road while a tractor-trailer was making a wide turn through oncoming traffic. However the sun was bright enough to cause a reflective glare to the trailer and was, able to pick up by the Autopilot system causing the driver to die. For any self-driving cars to be put on the road, it must be made sure that it will be safe and smart enough for people to use.

With all the new technology coming out everybody has a massive craze about them but unfortunately, there is that one group of people who will use new technology in possibly a negative way. Hackers are a potential risk to cars considering the amount of technology used in them and not just self-driving cars. Alex Hern, a writer of The Guardian reported an issue that once occurred with Fiat Chrysler Automotive. Alex stated that at Defcon, essentially a hacking conference, two men by the name of Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to hack into a Jeep Cherokee, while using a laptop connected miles away from the vehicle. They were able to seize control of the vehicle, cutting the brakes and transmission. This example goes to show if that regular cars that people use can be hacked like this, what will happen in the future with self-driving cars? For self-driving cars, they use a variety of sensors to work but Alex Hern again states that those sensors can be easily messed with to cause an accident. Alex quotes Jianhao Liu, a researcher at China’s Zhejiang University and the internet security company Qihoo 360, saying that “Sensors should be designed with security in mind” (Hern par. 22), also pointing out how the team of researchers built a machine that was able to distort the radar and put it to the test of a self-driving car. The result was that “the car simply assumed there was nothing to see where it couldn’t see anything” (Hern par. 27). If hackers are able to hack into cars and essentially do negative things, then it is a big thing for people to address before putting them on the road, an example could be that a hacker can take over someone’s own vehicle and maybe demand ransom to unlock it but the point is, is that there is no limit to what hackers will go through to do whatever they want. It would be a tremendous problem if hackers were able to take control of the technology that guides self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars have an abundance of technology present in them because they need to be able to operate independently from the driver. Unfortunately like all forms of technology, they expose radiation. Radiation is not something good to have but with current technology such as a smartphone, it does not emit enough radiation to be considered dangerous. However, in self-driving cars, the amount of radiation spread could be dangerous. According to a study done by Cooper Tire, it states “the average American spends a total of 18 days per year behind the wheel”. (Szymkowski par. 2). If self-driving cars are coming more into effect, then chances are the number would increase. The sensors, radar systems, G.P.S, and other systems running through the car will emit a far greater amount of radiation to the occupants inside of the vehicle. It is said that “constant exposure to electromagnetic field radiation can play a part in health conditions including headaches, migraines, inner agitation, chronic exhaustion, sleeplessness, and susceptibility to infection” (Vesttech par. 15). The cars now are technologically advanced but nowhere near as advanced as self-driving cars which would be a big problem for radiation spread. Self-driving cars will have no choice but to emit the radiation because the only way it can spread contact with one another is by emitting the radiation.

Self-driving cars are a drastic change in the automotive industry because of all the new technology that was developed to make it happen, however, the newer technology might not be that good for the occupants inside of the vehicle. There is no way to prove that they are exactly safe enough for the roads yet with some current accidents that have occurred. The hacking aspect of self-driving cars is very worrisome and dangerous and can lead to some disastrous outcomes for some people. Radiation poisoning is a very major health concern as it can lead to some bad effects in the long run considering how long the average person spends in a vehicle. Self-driving cars may seem like a good idea and for the most part, they could be, however, the technology required for them to operate may not prove that it is safe enough for people to be using yet. 

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