OPINION: Autonomous Cars Endanger Transportation

When you begin to think about the future, what comes to mind? Flying cars, time machines, robots, and computers are the first things that one begins to think about the future. Although some of these ideas are mostly seen in the science fiction genre, the idea of driverless cars is beginning to take root within today’s world. In terms of our own safety, we must ask ourselves whether or not it is a good idea to rely on the various types of automated driving functions and autonomous cars of today. A majority of companies are starting to implement new innovative systems within their cars in addition to building their own variation of the self-driving car. Unfortunately, not enough time is being utilized to reflect on the consequences someone might encounter when using the automated systems or an autonomous car itself. The pros and cons of these systems must be weighed in order to create an alternative that can better suit the ways in which we benefit from utilizing transportation.

The idea of the autonomous car has been experimented with since the mid 1920s, with the first example being a radio-controlled 1926 Chandler, created by the Houdina Radio Control company for public demonstration purposes in 1925. According to ThoughtCo., the 1926 Chandler had responded to radio signals during the demonstration. “The vehicle, a radio-controlled 1926 Chandler, was guided through traffic on a route along Broadway and Fifth Avenue with signals sent from another car following close behind.” In recent times, companies such as Tesla, Google, Microsoft, and General Motors have been experimenting with how they can achieve their goals of making the autonomous car a staple in the world of transportation. While in the midst of trying to achieve their goal, Google and Uber had to deal with some minor technical difficulties during their journeys. According to ThoughtCo., things had been going well until a major concern was presented. “However, progress on advancing the technology took a major hit when an Uber test vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in March of 2018. It was the first fatal accident that didn’t involve another vehicle. Uber has since suspended testing of self-driving cars.” Because of this incident involving an autonomous car, many people have questioned themselves as to whether or not these cars will provide a safer form of transportation.

If the proper precautions aren’t taken correctly, we can stumble upon a few major problems that may affect the way we live as time goes on. Examples of these problems include the malfunctioning of systems included in the autonomous car, workers losing their jobs and being replaced, hackers gaining access to the systems present in the car, and accidents that may be caused by the car itself. If these problems and consequences aren’t addressed, we may end up endangering ourselves while on the road. In addition to this, a driver must always be prepared to take control of the wheel in the event of an emergency. While the idea of an autonomous car is a novelty in today’s society, if we end up relying on the car’s system, we are just putting ourselves at risk of the many possible dangers. Companies such as Tesla, GM, Google, Uber, and Waymo are not taking enough time to shift their resources into testing their prototype cars, but rather using their resources to provide their cars with state-of-the-art technology.

We can address the problem at hand by abandoning the projects dedicated to making autonomous cars and conducting research that can be used towards other projects that can be beneficial to the ways in which we travel. By abandoning the projects focused solely on the idea of a self-driving car, manufacturers such as Tesla and General Motors can take time to improve and conduct research on problems that may be affecting their cars, such as providing a longer battery life, creating new safety systems and enhancing the overall performance of an average car. According to Your Mechanic, a dead battery, alternator failure, a sputtering engine, and warning lights are among the most common problems one can have with their car. By emphasizing research towards fixing the common problems a car can have, the companies can improve the quality of their cars while at the same time providing a better overall experience for the consumer.

In addition to this, many people believe that an autonomous car will present the benefits of reducing accidents, traffic, and saving lives. According to Jamie Lincoln Kitman of Automobile Magazine, there is little to no evidence that can support the argument that driverless cars will be a completely safe alternative to driving normally. “These promises contain elements of truth. But the data to support them is nowhere near complete. Even if the evidence does eventually materialize, areas of concern remain.” Because of this, it is better for companies to focus their resources towards building a much more efficient car for the consumer rather than implementing the latest technology into their new prototypes because it will help to save money that can be used towards other projects and resources a company may want to invest in.

Autonomous cars are known to have a ton of benefits that can change the way in which we travel but one common benefit that is often discussed is that the autonomous car can eliminate the significant problem of distracted driving. Despite this, however, it may expand the already problematic epidemic rather than putting an end to it. In terms of cars that contain automated driving assistance systems, the driver must always be vigilant and ready to take control of the steering wheel in case of an emergency. According to Phys.org, any inattentive driver is a major safety concern, regardless of the type of car one may be driving. “Drivers who are inattentive to the driving environment when a partially automated vehicle is operating in autonomous mode may pose a significant safety risk to themselves and others. They may be less likely to anticipate critical events that spark a takeover request, and be ill-prepared to safely take back control if required.” Although the autonomous car is often perceived as a safe alternative to driving in general, it is unable to halt the problem of distracted driving.

The idea of a driverless car is an example of those types of ideas that sound great on paper but when translated to the complex world of today, the idea presents many flaws. In order to maintain a more safer and better future for ourselves and transportation, we must take time to realize that no matter how much research or how many gadgets we put on a car, it will not become a perfect system that can detect everything on the road. We must acknowledge that nothing in this world can be considered to be perfect because everything has its own particular flaws. If we let ourselves fall victim to the various computer systems present within our cars and autonomous cars, the consequences will negatively affect us in many ways. Will you be the one to fight for a better tomorrow?