Autonomous Cars

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What is autonomy?

Autonomy is the ability to make an informed and uncoerced decision. Autonomous cars come in different levels of autonomy meaning how much the car can do without human control. These levels range from level 0, meaning that the car has no self-driving capabilities to level 5 which are cars that require no human interactions whatsoever. Most new luxurious and modern cars are at level 3 meaning that the driver can sit back and relax, watch a movie or use their mobile devices, however they are still required to be on hand to intervene if necessary.


Key Stakeholders

Pedestrians - The safety of self-driving cars means that accidents will decrease by a predicted 90%, meaning less injuries or even deaths involving pedestrians. However, the ethics concerning self-driving cars has been addressed many times by those producing the software. While the solution is still unclear, there are many debates over what might happen if an autonomous car was headed toward a pedestrian and was unable to stop in time. For most of the time, however, pedestrians can walk through streets knowing there’s a much smaller chance an accident could occur and somebody gets injured.

Drivers - It is expected that with fully self-driving cars, a human driver will no longer be required. This means that many who were previously incapable of using cars, such as those who are too young, too old or disabled, will now be able to use self-driving cars. However, many drivers enjoy the experience of driving, and having self-driving cars may mean that many people will never learn to drive. This means that drivers have many conflicting opinions on self-driving cars. Some enjoy the thought of not needing to drive, whereas some enjoy driving and do not look forward to autonomous cars.

Insurance companies - If self-driving cars were to become the new vehicle-of-choice, it is predicted that accidents will go down by 90%. With fewer accidents, fewer people will choose to become insured. Obviously, this would create a negative impact on insurance companies, meaning that to avoid car insurance becoming a thing of the past, either prices will have to be increased or a new approach to car insurance must be made.

Auto repair shops - With the predicted 90% decrease in accidents, fewer people will need to get their cars repaired. With significantly less customers, auto repair companies may be forced to raise prices. This can negatively impact many repair services for cars, with fewer customers and forced higher prices.

Professional drivers (taxis, limos, buses, etc.) - Efficient, self-driving cars will practically eliminate the use for professional drivers. A point-to-point self-driving vehicle will be much cheaper and much faster than a paid professional driver, causing many professional drivers to potentially go out of business.

Energy/fuel companies - Because self-driving cars use calculations and complicated algorithms rather than human judgement, they can drive both safer and more efficiently. This efficiency can greatly reduce the amount of fuel/energy a car consumes. However, because self-driving cars can provide the opportunity for more previously-incapable people to drive, there is the possibility that more cars could end up on the road, meaning energy/fuel will be in higher demand. Therefore, the opinions of energy/fuel providers could become either positive or negative, depending on the outcome of self-driving cars.

Freeways - slow-moving congested freeways could become a thing of the past with self-driving cars. Self-driving cars would be significantly less likely to crash or otherwise cause an accident, and thanks to their safe driving habits, self-driving cars could drive at much faster speeds on freeways. All this could greatly reduce the amount of time spent travelling on freeways. Many would agree that clear freeways that are easy to travel through are much more desirable than congested and slow-moving freeways.

Media and entertainment - Many concept designs for autonomous vehicles come with monitors and screens. This, combined with the fact that no driver is required, could help media and entertainment industries. This could be beneficial for both media and advertising.

Car manufacturers - Many manufacturers will begin to move toward creating self-driving cars. This can mean that the price of cars will increase due to the high cost of the technology and software in autonomous cars.

What's the Issue?

There is a lot of discussion and ethical thought which has been put into about the concept of driverless cars. Driverless cars have focused on the tragic dilemmas, in which a car had decided to run over pedestrians or run over cliffs, killed its own occupants. Many ethical issues deepen when people attend the realm of crosswalks, turns and intersections. For example; self-driving cars are designed to balance the safety of others, such as: pedestrians or cyclists, considering the cars’ passengers. Which may concerns safety of all the stakeholders. It has been proven that although these technologies are designed to be safer on the road, and decrease the percentage of car crashes drastically. But in reality, it is risking the safety of others

Potential Solutions

Currently, a complete solution to issues revolving around self-driving cars cannot be properly solved until cars have the potential to become fully autonomous. At the moment, cars are only partially autonomous. Many cars have the ability to drive straight along a road without moving off course or slow down and/or stop when about to collide with another car/pedestrian. These cars may be able to perform some functions on their own, but they still rely on a human driver. Fully autonomous cars will have no need for drivers at all. However, most of the current issues revolving around autonomous AI in cars involve cars that still rely on a driver. The real issues regarding fully autonomous cars are ones that haven’t even happened yet; the ones that could happen if everyone were to drive an autonomous vehicle.

For example, a frequently discussed issue that is explored when considering fully autonomous cars is the AI’s ability to make ethical decisions. A common example is a situation where an autonomous car was driving along a road when a pedestrian wandered in front of it. In this situation, the car would be going fast enough that it would not have time to stop before colliding with the pedestrian. The decision in this case would be whether the car continues forward, potentially killing the pedestrian, or swerve away, potentially colliding with the environment and killing the driver. A decision like this has been debated and discussed many times, and ultimately the issue has no correct solution as it is more of a decision based off ethics. There are many more issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, such as hacking, potential bugs or glitches, the high cost of production, etc. Many of these issues have little chance of being solved while self-driving cars are still in development and haven’t been officially released for commercial use.

However, The main appeal of autonomous cars are the solutions they provide for many driving-related issues, the greatest being that accidents, injuries and crashes will all be significantly reduced. However, because they can drive faster and closer to each other, self driving cars also have the potential to create much less pollution than their human-driven counterparts. Self-driving cars will also allow more mobility to those who were previously incapable of driving themselves. Autonomous vehicles may come with their share of issues, however they can provide solutions to many more issues as well.

Why is Autonomy a good thing?

Autonomous vehicles are promising many benefits for the future mobility. As new technologies in the process of communication and robotics have been invented, it has had a substantial influence on humans’ everyday lives in the sense of transportation. Over time the technologies have evolved to the point where autonomous vehicles have been designed to reduce the number of crashes on the road, pollution, energy consumption, and also increasing the accessibility to public transport. In recent times, technologies that can lead to automated driving has had a rapid development. Fully automated transportation can result in many significant changes in the road systems. Researchers in the US have found that 90% of car accidents involve some form of human error. Self-driving cars are also said to save almost 30,000 lives per year once the technology has been perfected, which may still take some time.Overall, once the technology in autonomous cars has been perfected, there will be less accidents, less pollution created, lower energy consumption as well as making accessibility to public transport much easier.