Self-driving cars. The term brings several things to the minds of people involved with developing them, making rules to ensure safety, those of who wish to purchase them, and to everyone else who will be sharing the roads with them and wonder what their ramifications may be. Many people no doubt wonder what the future of self-driving cars will be and whether they will become fully autonomous. Will a driver simply get in the car and let it get them where he/she wants to go? All the time, in all weather conditions? The car will make all the decisions driven by complicated computer algorithms, GPS, and a multitude of sensors.
However, private autonomous cars are a long way off, good news for people who like to have some control over where they’re going and how they want to get there. Driverless Future noted that the first users of such vehicles are more likely to be fleet owners, taxi companies, and bus operators who will get the benefits of lower servicing costs and operate on largely pre-set routes that can be easily programmed into vehicles.
Technology and Development
Self-driving cars will revolutionize the way people spend their time. Rather than worrying about checking your social feeds, taking calls, and answering emails during a morning commute, people will be able to do all this just as they would on their couch, without the dangers of distracted driving. Therefore, more time can be dedicated to tasks that usually cannot be performed while driving, making us even more efficient.
Most companies are still in the design stages of these vehicles. Tesla stands out as the furthest along in the process, as the company is rolling out testing on the second version of the software behind this new technology. The Palo Alto company seems to be running out in the forefront despite concerns and questions from skeptics.
The main technical difficulties are that mapping, algorithms to cope with snow, ice, and rain and the necessity to program cars that can drive anywhere in the world make it all but impossible to have private fully autonomous cars on the roads anytime soon. They could be decades away if we ever see them at all. There are other issues with social implications which are now beginning to occupy the minds of developers of self-driving vehicles along with insurance costs and ethical considerations.
An Insurance Nightmare
Regarding insurance issues, many have raised the issue of who would be responsible for damages in an accident involving a self-driving vehicles. The driver would be the most likely to be held responsible, but there are issues nevertheless that are yet to be resolved. Two big issues are when the vehicle would hand control the car back to the driver and why, and the likelihood of a glitch in a program which would affect all vehicles made using it (different manufacturers would use different parameters as well to further complicate things.) This would lead the courts to be the ultimate arbiters of fault, and it could take some years before these legal matters are sorted out one way or the other. Let’s say that for the foreseeable future the driver of the car will be one responsible for its safe operation.
The Moral Dilemma
Social implications were raised by The Washington Post when they questioned how long society would tolerate self-driving cars when they become responsible for taking a human life. Policy makers in Washington have begun addressing this and it remains an issue that will without a doubt be addressed elsewhere. Will we extend cars the same leeway we give to people who cause fatalities while driving? We tend to forgive people easily, and the question is will we forgive mechanical devices too? Potential advances in AI only make this more complicated.
These questions will continue to be looked at and addressed into the future as self-driving cars continue to be developed and become an increasing presence on roads of the world. They are here and they are here to stay.