The development in technology in the world today keeps on coming with new surprises, and we are yet to have even more in the future. Apart from the development of the internet, there is much technological advancement in the world today, ranging from communication technology, transport technology, science to robotics (Larry, 2015). Lately, the tech experts have once again stunned the world with another astonishing development in technology, in the autonomous cars, or in other words, driverless cars. This refers to the type of vehicles that do not require humans control to navigate. They use highly advanced technological setup to enable them navigate across different routes along which they are directed to operate. Normally, we are used to the gas powered vehicles, which must also have a human driver to drive it to the desired destination. However, with the introduction of the new technological vehicles, it means that cars must no longer have a human being on the driver’s seat for navigation, but instead, it is remotely controlled using the unconventional technological development, to any destination preferred (Larry, 2015).
The driverless cars system is quickly evolving, but up to the year 2017, none of these types of cars has been permitted to operate on the public highways and roads just yet. This is perhaps because of a high probability of accidents, between them and the human controlled cars. Additionally, there is widespread unfamiliarity with this new technology and therefore, more time is needed for making the technology known to people. It is also very important to make sure that the technology meets the safety standards of the public transport policy.
Many might wonder how it is possible to navigate a vehicle successfully around the city, without the control of a human driver, but this possibility can be explained using the technological devices fitted into these cars. There is a range of techniques that the driverless cars use to detect the objects in their surroundings, in order to avoid collision. Some of these techniques include the GPS; laser light, the computer vision devices, radar, and the odometer. The ability of these types of cars to operate effectively without a human driver is enabled by their advanced control coordination, which interpret the sensory information and using this data to identify the most suitable paths. Additionally, it uses the same information to avoid hitting any obstacles positioned along its path. For instance, the car is designed to make an abrupt stop as soon as its sensory information identifies a stationary car in front of it. The driverless car is also designed to negotiate a corner once information from the sensory devices indicates a bend or a junction along the road.
There are a good number of benefits that the autonomous cars bring to the society and particularly, as far as road transport is concerned. Below is a discussion of some of the advantages of this technology.
The replacement of human drivers with the autonomous cars is of great benefit to the safety of the passengers. Most of the road accidents encountered numerously on our roads are because of human errors. These human errors are caused by simple miscalculations such as tailgating, delayed reaction to a situation or even rubbernecking. Other road accidents are consequences of the driver carelessness and irresponsible behavior, such as over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, ignoring traffic signs and rules among other behaviors. The introduction of the driverless cars can substantially reduce these types of road accidents by a significant proportion. Unlike human beings who are highly prone to factors such as fatigue, lack of concentration, destructions, or even ill health when on the road, driverless cars will be safe from these types of distractions.
Improved traffic and fuel efficiency
Traffic congestions are brought about by accidents caused by human beings. They can also result from regulation of speed by human beings to one that suits them which if slow leads to traffic (Larry, 2015). Increased traffic hours consequently lead to high fuel consumption. Automation of cars will help solve these problems because there will be less accidents which would have resulted from human errors and delays that would have otherwise resulted from a human driver.
Increased free time
Because human beings will no longer be so engaged in driving, they will have more time to themselves to conduct other activities and even rest. This will largely promote growth of the economy, as productivity hours will be increased. Health issues such as stress related a large number also cuts down diseases that are sometimes because of overwork. A healthy nation means a more productive one. Due to reduced traffic congestions whose main contributor is human errors resulting to accidents less time will be less time wasted on the road enhancing utilization of time.
Reduced environmental pollution
The driverless cars will be designed to reduce pollution by reduced CO2 production by less smoke production. In addition, cars will spend less time on the road and therefore cutting down the amount of petroleum consumed which will directly reflect in reduction of emitted CO2 into the atmosphere. This will in a great extent help control the greatest threat to humankind, which is global warming.
Legal and Ethical Issues
Despite the benefits that come with introduction of driverless cars there are several legal and ethical issues that are associated with it. Their introduction to the roads will of course greatly affect the social lives of the people around this will include the drivers, pedestrians and the traffic officers. Considering that these cars have a direct effect on human beings it is important to critically analyze how their use will affect the lives of the user and who is to take responsibility if anything goes wrong. The effect on the affected parties will lead to legal and ethical concerns about their use. Below are some of the legal and ethical issues to be put into consideration before fully allowing driverless cars to take on the road.
Ethical issues are the factors that question the morality in the use of the driverless cars .Driverless cars will definitely results to loss of jobs for the people who work as drivers. Putting in to consideration the key role that transportation plays on the society brings to our attention the number of people who will be rendered jobless (Larry, 2015). This will lead to lower standards of living for the affected families considering they will no longer have services to offer to earn themselves a living. It will consequently result to increased crime rates, which are always a result of lack of job opportunities.
Since a machine does not have a human brain and the ability to decide rationally, the lives of the pedestrians and those of the passengers will be in constant danger. This is because in cases where a pedestrian gets in the way of the car the car will either endanger the life of the pedestrian by staying in the lane or otherwise endanger that of the pedestrian by swerving away from the pedestrian. As the vehicles are currently designed, they are suited to protect the life of the passengers on board and crush any obstacle that comes its way. This will put many lives in danger most especially those of young kids.
Autonomous vehicles cannot make decisions based on circumstances but are instead built to make decisions based on road conditions, the speed and the weather of their area of operation. In cases like when a car in front comes to an emergency stop the car is likely to collide in it because it is not designed to change its operations based on circumstances but rather what it can detect from the technology being used on it. This will put the lives of the people around it at risk.
The other ethical issue is the ability to protect the car from hackers. In case the computer operation of the car is compromised, it will lead to more harm than good since the passengers will be in danger of exploitation by the hackers. This can lead to loss of classified documents into the hands of hackers or terrorist if high official’s cars systems are compromised by hackers. Cases of abuse, theft, kidnappings, and robberies are also bond to increase.
The fault of accidents caused by autonomous cars will no longer have grounds for execution, as the blame will no longer be on the drivers but to a smaller extent on the manufacturer. This does not comply with the product regulations of liability, which is a regulation in most countries. This has raised a huge debate as who is to be held accountable in cases where human life is in danger.
Insurance is another legal issue of concern. This is because the government aims at a system where it is easy for the driver to claim and difficult for the company to avoid liability. This is going to be an issue because the insurance company can easily avoid or cut down the liability cost as the accident will be initiated by the user in this case the car itself. Insurance companies rely on human errors to avoid compensation but if humans are not involved they may end up incurring more cost than is expected on compensations and this could probably crumble the business to the ground and hence largely affecting the economy
Safety Taking Human Brain Out of the Loop
Taking the human brain out of the loop to some extent improves the security of human but also to a greater extent endangers their safety (Paul 2017). Human security is improved because of reduced accidents risks since a computer is not bound to errors like a human being is. In addition, the car will not suffer fatigue like humans would and there for the humans inside the car are ensured safety.
However, humans are exposed to danger in the event the car’s system is interfered with through hacking. Due to lack of a rational nature, machines may not be in a position to make the right decision when faced with unexpected problems that it was not programmed for thereby putting human lives in danger. Like any other computer run program they are sometimes bond to failure. In case of a failure in the system, fatal accidents could take place leading to large volumes of damages.
Several security concerns on the safety of passengers travelling in driverless cars have been raised resulting from cyber security (Paul 2017). This is based on possible hacking into the vehicles system, which will mean that the passenger will be in total control of the hackers. What is more is that the passengers will have no chance to rescue themselves.
The cars may also suffer from the overload of data, which will cause the system to crash. In the event this happens, many lives will be at stake, which then becomes a security threat to both the passengers and people in the surrounding environment.
Human security is also endangered in an event the travelling in it falls sick. In cases of fatal illnesses that require immediate medical attendance or first aid the person inside could easily pass away unnoticed because unlike human beings a car will not be in a position to sense the person’s emotions.
The essence of driving a car is important for the car owners, and therefore taking that away is somewhat a social and personal problem. People need to feel and be in control of their vehicles for as long as they own it. Driverless cars have their benefits, but they also ruin the attachment the car owners have with their vehicles (Cadie, July15, 2016). Moreover, the driverless cars cause a direct negative effect to the insurance companies. This is because these insurance companies are dependent on the human errors as well as vehicle issues. Public transport sector offers employment opportunities for many people in the country. For that reason, the introduction of the autonomous cars would eliminate many employment chances for the people. Consequently, in one way or another, this affects the overall economy of the nation, due to the decrease in jobs for a market as large as this.
Further required research
A further research on how the government will handle the issue of driverless cars is required. (Rob, August 26, 2016) for instance what happens if not all states permit the use of driverless cars. Will that mean that the people using those cars will only be restricted to specific areas.
Furthermore, how will the government handle the issue of liability? Who is going to take fall in case of an accident? Who then is responsible for paying insurance fee for the vehicle?
Another issue that needs to be addressed is how effective are the security measures put in place? How effectively can the car deal with attacks such as cyber terrorism or attack by virus during operation?
To sum up all, technology is really stepping into new heights. Despite the benefits that come along with it comes with its own share of challenges. Some of the benefits include less congestion, less cost is incurred on fuel expenses, and more time is created. However, it has also caused some people their source of livelihood, increased security threats due to lack of human control as well as increased possibility of accidents with no one to hold liable for. Despite the fact that we have to embrace technology in our lives since it is inevitable it is also of significant importance to scrutinize in all angle its effects. Its flaws should also be taken seriously and worked on to avoid damage that would have otherwise been prevented if action were taken.
Cadie Thompson, (July15, 2016) business insider. Intelligence cars and road ahead, NY .USA
Larry greenmail, (2015) the scientific America, introduction to driverless car benefits and limitations, news Stanford
Paul Herbert, (2017) Media Technologies and communication, SMPTE journal volume107 issue no 6, SMPTE publishers
Rob Towels, (August 26, 2016) the Biggest Threat Facing Autonomous Vehicles. Retrieved from https://www.thegurdian.com