Editorial

Paving the Road to Self Driving Cars

ARIELLE BEAK

STAFF WRITER

Your eyes are on the dull blue Prius ahead of you, which has remained steadily at the 65 mile speed limit for the past few minutes.

You let out a sigh, roll the window down, flick through the radio. Your phone lights up – “You here yet?” A lazy glance to the side, and the engine revs to your command.

You don’t bother to signal as you move to change lanes. But someone else had the same idea. Your right view is filled with the white aluminum of a pickup truck.

Human error is the primary culprit of more than 30,000 deaths that take place on the road each year in the United States. Whether it be mere distractions, lapses in judgement, or reckless maneuvers, the margin for potential accidents is boundless.

With the infinite number of situations and circumstances a driver can encounter on the road, driving no longer becomes a simple matter of getting from point A to B.

The past decade has been actively developing a solution to alleviate or even eliminate the grim line of zeros that follow the death toll accompanying cars.

At first glance, the solution almost seems too simple to consider: self-driving cars.

Of course, autonomous cars are not some novelty brainchild of the past few years.

The first self-driving car hit the road during the 20s, where a second manned car followed and sent signals to the “autonomous” vehicle through an antennae.

Fast forward to the present, where powerhouse companies such as Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Google have all invested trillions of dollars into the development and The idea seems straightforward enough.

Get rid of human error; let technology do the work. However, the reality of driving is that it’s foundation is in human capability.

Take honking for instance. How is a machine supposed to differentiate between a honk of impatience, a honk of warning, or even just one aimed to get the attention of a friend in a nearby lane? In addition, technology, incredible as it can be, is not infallible.

A car without a steering wheel, brake, or gas pedal requires the passenger to place absolute trust in a robot, when it comes down to it. A jammed disk, a glitch in the system, a software error – what happens then?

Taking a step back, the process of integrating driverless cars into a society of reliant automobile transportation becomes the bigger issue at hand.

As of now, companies have been utilizing semi-autonomous technology in cars.

Having self-driving cars mixed with human drivers on the road seems to be a recipe for disaster.

In a perfect situation, the switch would be an “all or nothing” approach, which would allow for all roads to be filled with impeccably programmed cars safely shuttling their passengers to their next destination.

However, the sheer number of drivers on the road in which driving has become a deeply ingrained part of the American culture makes this an impossibility. Combined with the heavy costs of these pioneering automobiles, the switch is likely to be gradual.   

Another dark possibility in a future of self-driving cars is the risk of hacking. Technological glitches arising from the programming itself is one thing to worry about, but deliberate outside interference is an ominous possibility.

These possibilities need to be taken into account, as they have a direct correlation to human lives.

The one positive is the trillions of dollars of research being poured into the enterprise, which no doubt contributes to a constant upward trend in advancements and improvements regarding self-driving cars.

And whatever the general public’s skepticism may be, the truth remains that there is no falter in the strides of car companies looking towards a future of independence on the road.

And to even the biggest adversaries of self-driving cars – one cannot deny attempts to revolutionize transportation in the name of safety.

Leave a Comment