Should We Trust Self-Driving Vehicles?

should we trust self driving vehicles

Think about your average day, how often do you rely on technology? Whether this means using your smart phone to carry on a hands-free conversation or check the latest basketball scores, ask your Google Home Mini to order groceries delivered directly to your home or simply use a computer to complete a job almost everyone relies on technology.

Of course, there are those who rely on the convenience of robotic technology more than others. So much so that automakers across the country have been dedicating much of their resources into added technology in each of their automobiles. Some have even began investing in self-driving technology, which could offer drivers the ultimate convenience of having your own personal taxi cab without paying the enormous fee or become a very expensive risk that you wish you never took.

The Future of Transportation

While most new vehicles rolling off the production line are built with sensors, cameras and devices that are making driving safer and easier, the future of transportation is quickly heading towards self-driving cars. These futuristic cars, trucks and SUVs have the ability to get its passengers wherever they need to go without the need of a driver.

Although this technology is not currently as common as vehicles with added conveniences like park and lane change assist, electronic stability control and collision avoidance; large automotive companies like Tesla are investing millions of dollars to combine the future with the present.

Experts from Business Insider even estimate that 10 million self-driving vehicles will be on the roads in the next two years.

A Risk Worth Taking?

Anyone who slips behind the wheel of a car, should know that driving is all about taking calculated risks. Along with trusting ourselves not to make a mistake and cause an accident, we also have to worry about other drivers and some say that self-driving vehicles will lessen these risks. According to KPMG’s global network of D&A professional’s recent prediction, “self-driving vehicles could save up to 30,000 lives per year”.

self driving vehicles on the road in traffic

Although these vehicles include the same technology that has become increasingly popular over the last few years, some currently breaking news may have a few companies who have already made a large investment in this new technology shaking their heads wondering if recent investments were worth it?

First Pedestrian Death Involving Self-Driving Vehicle

Less than a week ago, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was struck by an Uber car while walking her bicycle on the road in Phoenix, Arizona and later died from her injuries. According to authorities, a decision has yet to be made as to whether Uber or the safety driver present will be charged. Despite any pending charges, you must be wondering if this ride service should rethink its decision to replace much of its driver force in larger cities with these self-driving vehicles.

Safer Than Average Driver

Although self-driving cars have already been put through several road tests, and many tech experts claim that this technology has the likelihood to be safer than human drivers. According to a recent report from CNN, the National Safety Council said that an estimated 40,000 traffic fatalities on US roads last year were caused by human error.

According to University of Michigan Robots Institute professor Lionel Robert, “the goal is not to make self-driving cars as safe as the average human driver. Instead, we can these vehicles to be so much safer”.

University of Massachusetts Lowell assistant philosophy professor Nicholas Evans, who recently won a National Science Foundation grant to ask all the important questions that are sure to be concerning anyone who has considered allowing a robot to drive for them, says that self-driving cars are, for now, mostly risk averse.

While this may mean good news for other self-driving cars on the roads in the future, the head of Carnegie Mellon University’s philosophy department David Danks also brings up a very valid point that these cars fail to think in terms of the judgements that both people and animals make.

“The car is not making a decision in terms of how humans make decisions, it is just finding the path that best maximizes benefit for the most amount of people”, said Danks.

So, what does this mean for your average pedestrian? Let’s just say the news isn’t good yet.

This is Where the Trust Factor Comes In

So, after this long drawn out discussion about the cars of the future, which some may have thought would be flying around like some of us witnessed in a popular cartoon from the 1980’s, what will give us all peace of mind about self-driving cars?

While some say that the best way for tech companies and auto manufacturers to move forward into the latest ‘wave of the future’ is to work with government officials, we all know that the government struggles to make many big decisions and often flub up when the do. Of course, they are the policy makers and it took policy makers of this nature to eventually bring about conveniently autonomous items like the driverless elevator.

Other possibilities, that could work is bringing the heads of the most successful automotive and tech makers of the past and find out how they would assure that the latest driving technology could bring each of them success. Besides, don’t most large companies have board members that make large decisions?

While we may all be a bit hesitant on trusting something that we all are unable to control, maybe we all should have a different perspective. Besides, where would we all be today if things in this world stayed the same from generation to generation?

In Conclusion

Anyone who has worked on a green screen computer, owned a flip phone or even driven a large manual shift truck is probably grateful for the technology advancements that are available today. Although the future of driving is a bit frightening when it comes to trusting technology, we may just be thankful for the latest wave of the future sooner than we think.

Ellen Richardson
 

Ellen Richardson, better known as The Automotive Maven, has had a passion for all things automotive since the first time that her father let her pretend that she was behind the wheel in his antique VW Van. Since then, the little girl who also loved to pretend that she was an award-winning writer/journalist has been using her passion to help others realize the important roles that vehicles play in each of our lives.