Self-driving cars; Perfect future could be perfect disaster

ABBEY KROENER, Sports Editor

  Self driving car technology is just getting started but it is becoming more common and could change the world as we know it.  Our transportation system wouldn’t be the only thing that would change; society and economics would also be greatly transformed.

     Currently in the United States, there are no legally operating, fully-autonomous vehicles.  This is how the country should stay. Safety should always be the priority over convenience.

     There are cars that brake automatically or have the ability to react to things happening on the road, however, human beings should be responsible for making the judgement call about how to react, not a computer programmed to do so.   It is just too risky to put trust in technology alone since the possibility exists that it won’t work or that it may glitch. In addition to this, humans are likely to become dependent on the technology, and we have a recipe for disaster. 

     Union of Concerned Scientists claims that “ level 4 self-driving cars could be for sale in the next several years based on the automaker and technology company estimates.”  A level 4 is a car that if fully-autonomous in some driving scenarios, though not all.  The highest level is a 5 where the car is completely capable of self-driving in every situation.  If we are already close to reaching level 4, then the highest level may be reached within the next century. 

     Depending on these machines to be in charge of our lives on roads is dangerous and foolish.       The more control the car has, the less that we do. We are unaware of the full potential of technology.  

     Engineers have been working on perfecting this technology for a long time.  However, there is no guarantee with technology; no amount of testing will ensure success.  

       Similar to a radar, most self-driving cars create and maintain a map internally of their surroundings which is based on a large sensors.  That means we are basically trusting our lives with simple lasers that may detect the wrong image or miss an object causing a crash. Software then sends instructions to the vehicle’s “actuators,” which controls acceleration, braking, and steering.  The software is able to follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles from the hard-coded rules. According to Union of Concerned Scientists, some autonomous cars don’t even include a steering wheel. So how are people in these cars to take over if something goes wrong.  

    One of the arguments in favor of self driving cars is that they will reduce driving related fatalities.   Union of Scientists claim that in 2015, more than 30,000 people died from a motor vehicle crash in the United States.  These scientists believe self-driving vehicles could reduce that number, “software could prove to be less error-prone than humans,” but cybersecurity and technology failure is still a big concern and could actually increase that number.

     Another positive they want to celebrate is that self-driving vehicles could help mobilize individuals who are unable to drive themselves, such as the elderly or disabled.   There are plenty of other safer alternatives to driverless cars for these people like Uber or public transportation or even community services that cater to the elderly or disabled.  

        More concerns of this new development include the total number of miles that these vehicles will be driven.  If the mileage goes up and those vehicles are powered by gasoline, then transportation-related climate emissions could increase remarkably, harming the environment.  

     There are too many unanswered questions about self-driving vehicles, and is irresponsible to use such an elevated form of technology with such little information about its long term impact.