If the idea of self-driving doesn’t raise eyebrows enough, Uber has once again stolen headlines after one of its self-driving Volvo SUVs flipped on its side after an accident in Tempe, Arizona. To be fair, it wasn’t the Uber‘s fault, but many have questioned whether having a human behind the wheel could have avoided the crash in the first place.
With such immediate backlash, Uber has cancelled its self-driving programs in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Arizona. Although the program has restarted in San Francisco as of Monday this week for mapping purposes and the cars are being driven manually.
Bearing in mind that it is still early days when it comes to driver-less technology, it’s worth questioning whether or not this is a necessary advancement or a mere voyage into an expensive future. Whichever side or fence you’re on, here are the pros and cons of a driver-less future.
Pro: Allows those with physical impairments to travel via car independently
Waymo is Google’s answer to self-driving technology. In 2015 Waymo was the first driverless car on public roads allowing a push of a button to activate the car. This allows passengers with say a vision impairment to gain independence and the ability to travel anytime, anywhere, without awaiting the guidance or security of a carer.
Con: Vulnerabilities like system malfunctions etc. that needs physical attention
Waymo doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals which could make passengers feel fairly uncomfortable if trouble arises.
Pro: Reduces the risk of human error on the road
According to a study conducted by Stanford University from 2013, “some 90% of motor vehicles crashes are caused at least in part by human error”. Having a computer at the wheel could at least decrease this number.
Cons: How does a computer algorithm make life decisions?
In the unfortunate situation where a car must swerve to either save pedestrians or ram into another car, one would question how self-driving technology would handle this. Broadly speaking in any situation human or not, it would be a near impossible decision but with driver-less technology responsible, whatever the outcome be would raise debate about the ethics of a computer valuing life against another.
There is also the theory that a totally computer based car would be vulnerable to hacking and so complete control from a third party.
Pro: Road accidents caused by third party factors would decrease
Apart from possibly selecting the wrong address home, there’d no longer be the risk of alcohol-related accidents as well as the responsibility of designated driver. Most importantly, texting and driving would no longer spell disaster.
Con: It’s bloody expensive
A normal car and everything that entails already stings. A totally self-driving car would undoubtedly cost a fortune.
Pro: Navigation struggles will become a thing of the pass
Calculating the most direct route, getting lost because a dodgy GPS instruction will mean a more fuel efficient and timely commute.
Con: Storm and Sensors
With the amount of random torrential storms Melbourne cops, damage to the sensors mounted on the top of the car will come into question especially since talks have arisen about the likelihood of damage to the laser sensors.
Pro: Road trips forever
Arguing over driving shifts would cease to exist driver-less technology dominating a road trip. Driving through the night would slash travel times in half and with more room in the car for entertainment, the road trips of the future just got a whole lot cooler.
Cons: What would happen to Taxi drivers?
Already in a battle with Uber, Taxi drivers would surely become a thing of the pass if driver-less cars become more widely available in the decades to come. Not to mention truck drivers on the grave-yard shift would no longer be required to make the trip with driver-less technology a cheaper alternative in the long run.
Without a doubt, driver-less technology would be pretty damn cool but whether or not it becomes a widely embraced and acknowledge mode of transport is clearly still up for debate.