With the birth of electric cars, self-driving technology has made its way onto our streets, roads, and highways. Some tout them as a miracle, allowing people to be given taxi rides without the need for a driver. This is music to the ears of companies like Uber and Lyft. What about the average driver? Well, if your car drives you around, do we still need to get a driver’s license? Are driverless or self-driving cars safer? After all, aren’t machines more consistent and stable than human beings? Yet, there are some that say, self-driving cars have one weakness. They have been programmed and made by humans. Anything we make, can and does go wrong and when you interject a car into this, it can end horribly. Let’s explore what the risks and triumphs could be.
Self-driving cars have had some highlights and some failures. There have been reports of self-driving cars rear-ending cars at traffic lights. Others have been unable to recognize they are not on the highway anymore and are in fact, on city streets. Speed issues and braking issues have been the two types of concerns major investors and politicians have. The steering accuracy is pretty good but in bustling cities, recognizing pedestrians coming in and out of parked cars is far from ready.
The newest breakthrough that could solve all of this is the implementation of Lidar. This is light detection and ranging technology. It’s the technology used by geologists to examine the Amazon Jungle floor, Antarctic glaciers and what lies beneath the soil and or waters of various crash sites of aircraft. The thing is, lidar is still pretty new. So you have a new technology being paired with another new technology. Maybe this is why Tesla has not decided to choose lidar for their cars.
Smart and dumb vehicles
Here’s a question for you: how useful are smart modern cars, if the majority of cars on the roads are ‘dumb’? If you have a smart car that can sense the other vehicles around it, but the vehicles it senses, can’t sense it, what implications does this have?
It seems like the avoidance of accidents is not going to be as frequent as we would like to hope. In fact, trucks that cannot see your car will still pose the same threat to you while on the highway. This is why you should always have trusted car accident lawyers to hand. They will charge the trucking company with the fault, meaning there is a higher chance of receiving compensation than if they were to take on the driver him or herself. And until we get smart trucks, smart vans, and smart motorcycles, smart cars might just be a gimmick.
The legal quagmire
So if a self-driving car causes an accident, who gets charged? Is it the operating company i.e. someone like Uber? Is it the car manufacturer? Or is it the software company? This is the legal whirlpool that is festering itself to be perhaps the biggest challenge of all. How do governments write laws to protect all those involved in a situation like this? Some would say, surely it’s the software company’s fault, they are the ones who control the vehicle when it is self-driving. Others would say, it’s the car brand’s fault for using faulty software. Others might say it’s the government’s fault for not having tougher regulations. And on and on it goes. The truth is, no one really knows what would happen. There has been a fatal crash of a self-driving car that Uber operated. The company is now being taken to court.
The thing about trust
Even though human beings are not perfect, the overall incentive to drive well is to essentially stay alive. A robot cannot comprehend life (or at least not yet), it just does what it is programmed to do. The thing about self-driving cars that prevents many of us not singing the praise of this leap, is the lack of trust. Human beings have judgment. It’s not perfect, but there is a cognitive process that we can understand and comprehend in another person. How do we do this with a robot? We’re always thinking, ‘does it know what to do’ in any given situation.
So are self-driving cars a menace or a miracle? The jury is well and truly out. It’s a love and hate technology at the moment. The hype will soon wear off, and we’ll begin to properly judge this technology when it becomes more commonplace.