The evolution of self-driving vehicles has gone into warp speed over the past decade. In fact, most vehicles on the road today have some form of automation.
Depending on where you live, fully automated self-driving vehicles are either an everyday sight or not-too-far-off reality. Google’s autonomous Waymo vehicles have been cruising up and down the streets of Phoenix since early 2017.
As we navigate forward into a world that looks more like the Jetsons and less like the Flintstones, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of self-driving vehicles.
Of course, it can be quite difficult to predict the future, but we know this for certain about self-driving cars: pros and cons can be debated at great length.
Self-Driving Cars: Pros and Cons
- Reduced vehicle crashes
- More efficient travel
- Decreased traffic flow
- Easier access for the disabled and elderly
- Wide adoption is necessary to make it work
- Massive job loss in the transportation sector
- Hackers and cyber threats
- Moral dilemma
Pro #1: Reduced Vehicle Crashes
The vast majority of motor vehicle crashes are due to human error. It is estimated that fully automated vehicles can reduce vehicle crashes by 90%.
One thing that is certain about any assessment of self-driving cars: pros and cons must take into account how self-driving vehicles can curb — and potentially eliminate — accidents caused by driver fatigue, inattention and distracted driving, and alcohol-related impairment.
Pro #2: More Efficient Travel
Fully automated vehicles are able to communicate with each other through a network of computers. This communication allows for real-time analysis which can help determine best routes of travel, as well as calculate appropriate speeds and distances between vehicles during rush-hour bottlenecks.
Pro #3: Decreased Traffic Flow
Since self-driving vehicles are communicating in real time, travel distances between vehicles can be improved. This can help reduce common traffic concerns.
Pro #4: Easier Access for the Elderly and Disabled
Self-driving vehicles could be a safer, more accessible alternative for persons with disabilities and the elderly alike. A 2017 study by Ruderman Family Foundation observes, “Mitigating transportation-related obstacles for individuals with disabilities would enable new employment opportunities for approximately 2 million individuals with disabilities, and save $19 billion annually in healthcare expenditures from missed medical appointments. This is in the context of the anticipated broader impacts of autonomous vehicles: $1.3 trillion in savings from productivity gains, fuel costs, accident prevention, among other sources.”
Con #1: Wide Adoption Is Necessary
It has been argued that for any of the pros listed above, the only way a fully autonomous system can works is if all vehicles are self-driving. The problem with this concept is that it would essentially strip people of their independent ability to drive.
Con #2: Massive Job Losses in Certain Economic Sectors
A sizeable portion of the population is wholly dependent on the automotive industry for their livelihoods. Many of those working in trucking, public transit, and delivery services would find their roles obsolete in a fully self-driving future.
Although Goldman Sachs has estimated that automation will shed 300,000 transportation-related jobs each year, new employment opportunities will be created in other ways.
Con #3: Hackers and Cyber-Security Threats
Security issues are a very real con of self-driving vehicles. When vehicles rely on computers to function, they are susceptible to cyber threats. If an entire system is comprised, so would society’s ability to remain connected and provide basic resources to the masses.
We’ve seen what kinds of disruptions that the recent Colonial Pipeline hack caused. The severity of a breach of an autonomous vehicle network would be incalculable by comparison.
Con #4: The Moral Dilemma
One very important theme that may not get the attention it deserves in discussions of self-driving cars: pros and cons do not always consider questions of morality.
The moral dilemma hinges on the idea that the artificial intelligence in self-driving vehicles lacks the ability to make judgments between multiple favorable outcomes — or “least bad” outcomes, for that matter. A classic example would be an autonomous vehicle choosing to run off the road, possibly killing the driver inside, in an attempt to avoid hitting a school bus filled with children.
Keep Thinking Ahead
The debate on self-driving vehicles and the use of fully autonomous technology rages on. The reality is that we will continue to see advancements in this technology. We need to be thinking ahead on how to incorporate these advancements into our daily lives.
If you have been injured in a self-driving car accident, do not hesitate to give Negretti & Associates a call. Your recovery can hinge on whether or not you have an experienced accident lawyer on your side. For a free consultation with our legal team, contact us online, call us at 1-833-827-3535, or send us a text.