The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

Road Rage Reduction
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CPA. Now I’m not talking about a certified public accountant. I’m talking about congestion, pollution, and accidents. Check anywhere across any platform, and you will find that these are linked to the most common reasons people hate cars, but what if I told you that there is a car in the market that could decrease traffic, decrease pollution, and decrease accidents. Sounds nice until you find out it can also drive itself. Sounds amazing! We are talking about the news famous self driving car. Innovations such as this are made to propel the world of technology forward. Because self driving cars aid the safety of people and set a precedent for the development of autonomous vehicles, they should be more widely accepted across the nation. Going into the world of autonomous vehicles, we will first view the aversion aimed at the technology that will follow with the potential of self driving cars. Then after giving my personal solution, we will review one of the main points made by the oppositions. 

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Fully autonomous vehicles are being pushed away by people which in turn postpones the car’s benefits. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that approximately 94% of accidents are caused by human error (Road Rage). People are not perfect nor do we expect them to be perfect, but the technology of automobiles could drastically change the accidents that are caused by human error. Alan Amici, a vice president of automotive engineering at TE Connectivity states, “Cars with advanced safety features and eventually, self-driving cars, can significantly reduce the number of collisions. The impact of this innovation can be far-reaching, including reduced demand on emergency response systems and reduced auto insurance and health care costs” (Gupton). The reduction of crashes has additional benefits that could help saves lives and help save people money. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes, “Self-driving technology could help mobilize individuals who are unable to drive themselves, such as the elderly or disabled” (Self-Driving Cars Explained). So now the grandma who couldn’t visit you, and your crippled friend Charlie are only a Tesla away from being able to drive. Gini Scott, PhD., stated that, “1,500 people a year are seriously injured or killed in these traffic disputes, and many thousands if not millions more have these confrontations with someone who is raging.” She later went on to say, “if one driverless car cuts off another on the road, it’s just following the directives from its software, and the other driverless car isn’t going to get mad. Its software will just register the passing car”. People will be people, but a car will never have a bad day, nor will it pull a bat out if another car cuts it off in traffic.

Those opposed to self driving cars should have an extended understanding of its technology. Dr. Dominique Freckmann an automotive engineer manager at Transform Engineering notes, “The sensors in a self-driving car are always observing, are not affected by the state of the driver (sleepy, angry, etc.), and can scan in multiple directions simultaneously,” (Gupton). Sensors will become the eyes of the vehicle. Similarly to what I mentioned before, the sensors will always be working in a perfect state unlike a driver would. Tim Meke, a graduate student in the Harvard Physics PhD program describes the technology: “Programmers have developed very smart algorithms that can be “trained” to identify objects’ in the car’s surroundings. For example, these algorithms classify a bulky, fast-moving object with two wheels as a motorcycle, rather than a bicycle. Other objects would be identified as cars, pedestrians, traffic lights or obstacles, accordingly”. The work of these professionals is meant to define perfection. Like Rome wasn’t built in a day, these programmers have taken a long time to improve and perfect these algorithms. Additionally, Meke states, “Self-driving cars will potentially have a huge positive impact on our safety and lifestyle. The high-tech vision system has the potential to outperform humans in detecting dangerous situations. Unlike distracted or drunk drivers, self-driving cars always operate at their maximum ability. Therefore, they are likely to reduce accidents and lower the huge death toll on our roads. Additionally, the smart algorithms will find faster routes to our destinations, drive more efficiently and consume less fuel. We will have the added benefit of spending our time on other tasks while our car is driving for us”. As hard as it is to admit, Robots can be created to become better than us at virtually anything. If we use them for the right reasons we are able to create products like these that help benefit us and save lives.

Although people believe that the lives of many are put in jeopardy because of self-driving cars, user error is the one to blame. One article in Opposing Viewpoints reads, “Although many in the industry suggest that semiautonomous and fully autonomous cars are safer than human-driven cars, the potential for accidents remains. In June 2016, a driver using Tesla’s autonomous driving feature was involved in a fatal crash. The car was traveling on a divided highway when a large truck made an unsafe turn across the road in front of it” (Self-Driving Cars). As we know there are always two sides to a story. Tim Meke breaks down what really happened as he says, “It is important to note that the self-driving feature involved in the Tesla crash was explicitly not meant for fully autonomous driving. The driver had been warned several times to put his hands back on the wheel”. 100% fully autonomous vehicles are yet to be sold to the public. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has not been able to stress enough how important it is for people to remain aware of their surrounding while driving a Tesla, or for that matter, any autonomous vehicle.

With this, we have come to realize that self driving vehicles are destined to become the future of transportation as long as people understand that  driving in any manner continues to be a responsibility that should be taken seriously. We have also understood that all of the benefits of a driverless car bring forth major improvements in today’s world, and that the development of such vehicles will only continue to better. So when it becomes your turn to buy a new vehicle, whenever that may be, know that a self-driving car could be a decision away from being yours. As for your support for autonomous cars, will you help decrease congestion? Will you help decrease pollution? Will you help save lives? Never forget the importance of the acronym that taught you all CPA.


Sources:

Gupton, Nancy. “The Science of Self-Driving Cars.” The Franklin Institute, 10 Aug. 2016, www.fi.edu/science-of-selfdriving-cars.

Menke, Tim. “Self-Driving Cars: The Technology, Risks and Possibilities.” Science in the News, 28 Aug. 2017, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/self-driving-cars-technology-risks-possibilities/.

“Road Rage Statistics Filled With Surprising Facts.” Elite Driving School, 8 Mar. 2015, drivingschool.net/road-rage-statistics-filled-surprising-facts/.

Scott, Gini Graham. “Driverless Cars Could Eliminate Road Rage.” Road Rage, edited by Amy Francis, Greenhaven Press, 2014. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010911216/OVIC?u=avlr&sid=OVIC&xid=c49d6241. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019. Originally published as “The Driverless Car—and the End of Road Rage?” Huffington Post, 2012.

“Self-Driving Cars Explained.” Union of Concerned Scientists, 24 Feb. 2018, www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/how-self-driving-cars-work#.XDU7Ui_MxmA.

“Self-Driving Cars.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/GECXKE651250678/OVIC?u=avlr&sid=OVIC&xid=9058ffda. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.

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