Within the framework of the current paper, the researcher will dwell on the technology of the self-driving cars and treat it as one of the keystones of the modern technology research. They are certain of the fact that this modernization will positively affect the condition on the roads and minimalize the number of accidents instigated by careless or reckless drivers. On a bigger scale, self-driving automobiles can be looked upon as an important stage of the growth of comparable technologies (Araujo, Mason, & Spring, 2012). The promotional campaign designed to sell driverless cars is based on some crucial arguments. First, the inventers of self-driving cars promise that there will be a smaller amount of accidents. In this case, driverless cars can be seen as an apparatus projected to avert the antagonistic costs of driver errors.
In the future, this advantage can be estimated on the basis of the lives that were protected by self-driving cars. Second, the application of driverless cars will tortuously lead to the upsurges in GDP and the level of quality of life (Araujo et al., 2012). This target will be reached by means of supervising the shuttling time and translating it into productive efforts. Third, the originators of driverless cars claim that the transfer to self-driving cars will lead to a decline in the number of traffic jams. This can be accomplished due to the adaptation of the driverless vehicles to the traffic comportment. Moreover, they can preserve a smaller distance between the vehicles and drive at higher speeds (Araujo et al., 2012). The influence of self-driving cars will also be noticeable owing to the enhanced fuel economy.
Within the framework of the current paper, the researcher is willing to answer the question of whether there is a chance that self-driving vehicles will become as common as driven cars are today and replace the majority of human drivers during the next two decades.
In the future, an accident may occur in which a driverless car will accidentally kill a pedestrian while casually cruising around the streets. Yet, no one knows what laws should apply in a situation like this. The modern legal postulates cannot sustain the constant development of technologies, and this may become a major problem in the future (Greenblatt, 2016). Meanwhile, Tesla, Toyota, Google, and many other companies are rushing forward in search of innovations and breakthrough discoveries. Currently, driverless cars can be seen on the streets of California (Mountain View) and Texas (Austin). By the year 2016, Tesla Motors rolled out an update which allowed the owners of Tesla vehicles to shift to an entirely autopiloted mode.
Howard (2013) believes that the majority of individuals who are for the implementation of driverless cars see the most important advantages in safety, automatic search for the parking spot, and multitasking while driving. At the same time, the biggest concerns were the cost of such vehicles and other various legal responsibilities. Howard (2013) claims that the key male concern is the liability. Men are also not so worried about the control. The individuals with a low-level income are mostly concerned with the safety measures and control of the vehicle. The members of groups which included cyclists and single-occupancy automobile drivers mentioned that they were concerned with losing control of the vehicle. Nonetheless, all of the groups were anxious about the costs of this technology.
As Schoettle and Sivak (2014) claim, the majority of the individuals interested in self-driving cars are concerned with the security issues and their safety. They highly doubt that driverless cars can perform as human drivers do. The public is also anxious about the unoccupied and commercial self-driving vehicles. According to the results of the survey, the majority of the interviewees were interested in exploiting this technology. Nonetheless, these respondents acknowledged the amount of extra money that they would have to pay in order to sustain that technology (Schoettle & Sivak, 2014). The difference between males and females was displayed by the fact that women were more cautious and did not perceive the self-driving vehicles as a sole advantage.
In their another research, Schoettle and Sivak (2015) addressed the issue of safety of self-driving cars. They reviewed the contribution of driverless cars to the number of accidents and compared it to other traffic participants while taking into account external factors. The researchers also questioned the appropriateness of the computational decisions of a self-driving car. After that, Schoettle and Sivak (2015) claimed that the advantages of driverless cars might outdo even an experienced driver (including vigilance and computational speed). One of the key questions of the research was the problem of interaction between the conventional vehicles and driverless automobiles and how this interaction would influence road safety.
Yang and Coughlin (2014) discuss the challenges and advantages of self-driving cars. They pay special attention to the in-vehicle technology and summarize the age-related issues of conventional drivers. The researchers measure the effectiveness of the in-vehicle technology and enumerate the core aspects that have to be taken into consideration (including acceptance and ability to learn) (Yang & Coughlin, 2014). They use a holistic approach to the research and use navigation/ health monitoring systems in order to point out the issues connected to aging drivers and their use of self-driving cars.
Self-driving Cars and Their Predecessors
The very first experiments intended to develop and test driverless cars were conducted way back in the 1920s. Since then, numerous companies joined the competition. Currently, the development of self-driving cars became one of the major concerns of the scientists from all around the world (Nikowitz, 2015). Surprisingly, despite the popularity of this topic and its extensive history, the scientists did not come up with a perfect driverless car yet.
One of the first driverless cars was presented by Houdina Radio Control is 1925. They demonstrated their radio-controlled car. The test-drive was performed in New York, on the route from Broadway to the Fifth Avenue. The peculiarity of this test drive was the thick traffic jam. The car (1926 Chandler) featured an antenna which caught the radio impulses sent out by the second car that followed the Chandler (Marsico, 2016). The idea was that the signals were able to maintain the movement of the vehicle by controlling small electric motors. During 1926, this innovational technology was used by one of the most popular car distributors in Milwaukee. They introduced it to the public as “Phantom Auto” and performed a demonstration on the streets of Milwaukee (Neckermann, 2015). A bit later, in 1932, this technology was also demonstrated in Fredericksburg so as to capture merchants’ interest and sell the technology to other people.
Three decades later, the project regarding driverless cars was re-initiated, and Ohio State University played a major role in the development of this project (Neckermann, 2015). Their concept of driverless cars presupposed that the cars should be triggered and controlled by special electronic devices. The project was going to take approximately 15 years. The head of the project promised that the system supporting driverless cars would be installed on public roads as well. So as to support the movement of the driverless cars, the Bureau of Public Roads developed an initiative concerning the development of an automatically controlled freeway. Four states signed up for the construction of these freeways – New York, Ohio, California, and Massachusetts. One of the most renowned developments of the 1960s was the Aeromobile 35B (Carr, 2016). The air-cushion vehicle project was expected to transform the US transportation system.
The beginning of the 21st century was highlighted by a number of developments introduced by the US Government. They funded three military efforts (Demo I, Demo II, and Demo III) aimed at the creation of a flawless driverless vehicle. The Demo III, released in 2001, was able to self-drive numerous miles while avoiding obstacles which could be met on a stiff cross-country terrain (Gingrich ; Worthington, 2013). Another critical development of the 2000s was the real-time control system. It allowed the end user to control individual vehicles (including steering options, brakes, and throttle) and even groups of vehicles. This objective was reached by means of the hierarchic structure of the control system. During the 2000s, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency initiated a project in which it asked robotic engineers to create a driverless vehicle which could pass a series of stress tests performed on the territory of the Mojave Desert (Gingrich ; Worthington, 2013). They offered $1 million, but not a single team happened to succeed and finish the course.
Currently, the situation looks really promising, and self-driving cars may take over the market. Nonetheless, there is little chance that driverless vehicles will replace the conventional vehicles with drivers anytime soon. The development of self-driving cars technology deploys rather slowly, and we should not expect the final product (a fully functional driverless car with no flaws) before the 2030s.
The Impact of Self-driving Cars
Driverless cars are presented by the developers as the future of automotive industry where all the conventional cars will be replaced with self-driving vehicles. The community sees these cars as an opportunity to get rid of critical responsibilities and spend their time more effectively even when they are on the road. In most cases, interactions between people are not affected in any way by self-driving cars. Nevertheless, these vehicles may exclude human attentiveness from the automotive equation, and it may have serious consequences for humanity.
Self-driving cars are critically acclaimed by the society, and the perspectives are bright. The community sees this innovation as rather useful, but there are several things that are perceived as dangers. Nonetheless, the major part of the community favors self-driving cars and their conventional use (Neckermann, 2015). If we draw parallels between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and driverless cars, we will find that this technology perfectly fits in the sector of psychological needs (Neckermann, 2015). The so-called drivers will fulfill their esteem needs and have more time to reach out to their family. On a smaller scale, driverless cars are intended to help the drivers fulfill their basic physiological needs such as rest, food, warmth, and water. Google, Tesla, and even Apple are currently trying to make the best use of this technology. For the most part, these corporations can be characterized as rivals that do not help each other. It may happen that Google becomes a monopoly and conquers the market due to their expensive driverless technologies that are able to project even the most complex situations on the road. One of the biggest changes in the society may be caused by the implicit advertisement of an idle lifestyle. The response to the technology is mainly positive due to the fact that there are more advantages than disadvantages. Driverless cars appeared in order to help humans to minimize the number of accidents such as head-on collisions and other lethal crashes. It is rather unlikely that someone will be harmed by this technology. The development of self-driving cars creates more job opportunities for the developers but may adversely impact other professions such as taxi or bus drivers. There is no connection between driverless cars and crime or other aspects of social life. This technology will positively affect interpersonal relationships when it is fully developed.
The cultural impact of self-driving cars is not as critical as its social implications. If we take into consideration the use of driverless cars across the world, the United States is the leader when it comes to research in the field of self-driving cars, development of the innovative techniques, and appraisal of the existing technologies (Gingrich & Worthington, 2013). American researchers carefully explore the ways in which self-driving cars could be innovated further. Some of the American celebrities that promote the use of driverless cars are Cameron Diaz, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Tony Hawk. The cultural value that is promoted the most is the safety of self-driving cars and their technological excellence which is usually associated with the individual’s outlooks. The utmost priority of this technology is to guarantee the passengers’ safety. Self-driving cars popularized the notion of car defense (Gingrich & Worthington, 2013). First, they appeared in the works of Isaac Asimov. Overall, the phenomenon of driverless cars was positively met by the society and famous people. Regardless, there are not as many works of art about this technology as one would expect. Moreover, a self-driving car will probably never become a museum piece because it is constantly innovated and the progress will not impact it in a significant manner. By means of driverless cars, the humanity can be expressed through the visible simplicity of its forms and processes while being supported by the intricate internal mechanisms and innovative approaches to the development.
Currently, the government partially supports the initiatives connected to the development of driverless cars. On an international scale, the United States are involved in these processes more than any other country. One of the most notable decisions of the Supreme Court was to allow the employment of driverless cars on the streets of several cities in California. Consequently, Ohio and Texas also initiated the policies that promoted the use of driverless cars on the streets and highways (Carr, 2016). Despite the complicated nature of this innovation and major implications connected to the safety of this type of transportation, almost no political involvement is documented to this day. The most important political decisions concerning driverless cars revolved around the safety of these vehicles (Gingrich & Worthington, 2013). These anxieties were also triggered by critical public doubts regarding the proficiency of algorithms that are responsible for resolving complex traffic situations.
The economic impact of self-driving vehicles is also noticeable in terms of several factors. Even though there is a positive aspect reflected by the reduced costs and occurrence of various accidents, there is a hazard of specialty devaluation (Marsico, 2016). This means that conventional drivers may be left jobless when the driverless car technology becomes close to perfect. This will have a momentous impact on the country’s economy and most probably minimize the financial output. Nonetheless, the problem is that the IT sector will be strained by the lack of knowledgeable developers. Ultimately, this may lead to a situation where numerous drivers will lose their jobs in vain. Before replacing the conventional drivers with self-driving cars, we should take into account the present economic tendencies (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Trends in the area of self-driving cars.
Google is the company that currently dominates the competition, and it is very likely that its competitors will slowly fall off or decide to collaborate with the IT mogul (see Figure 2). The investments include millions and billions of dollars. The price of self-driving cars is expected to go down with time due to the increasing popularity of this type of transportation (Neckermann, 2015). The companies that are funding research on driverless cars are motivated by the improvements that can be made in the area and view this as a scientific opportunity.
Figure 2. Self-driving cars market.
The environmental impact of self-driving cars should be seen as a positive asset due to a number of reasons. First of all, driverless cars consume less energy and function on the basis of the so-called “clean” energy (Nikowitz, 2015). Driverless cars also minimize the amount of greenhouse emissions by almost 25%. Regardless, the key impact on the environment will be made by the policies applied by the government concerning the energy consumption and an authorized number of driverless vehicles.
The impact of self-driving cars should not be underestimated. The current development pace hints at the bright future of this technology but the society has to be careful when implementing driverless cars in real-life environments. Numerous social, political, and economic implications may become serious problems in the future if they are not addressed by the developers as soon as possible.
Regardless of the eminence of the technology, there are several critical problems that have a substantial effect on humanity and their attitude toward driverless cars. These pivotal issues revolve around the importance of the decision-making algorithms included in the car. It is important to realize that there are situations in which there is no correct answer. Instead, these events turn into moral dilemmas, and the cars will have to decide what to do. On a bigger scale, it comes down to a situation where the car will guarantee the safety of its passengers but only under certain circumstances (Gingrich ; Worthington, 2013).
Currently, numerous researchers believe that the maneuvers performed by self-driving cars impose major risks on all the road users. Even though these vehicles are thoroughly tested via specific simulations, it may seem like currently these cars are trained to kill and not to save (see Figure 1). The danger can be explained by the automatic decisions made by self-driving cars which sometimes are rather debatable (for instance, a situation when the car will choose to kill one person in the crash instead of injuring multiple people) (Carr, 2016).
Figure 1. What would the car do?
The researchers are keen on understanding the ways to mitigate the occurrence of human-sacrifice scenarios. At the same time, they realize that this kind of situation will be inevitable in the future full of self-driving cars. The moral dilemma inherent in this technology has a significant impact on the attitudes of humanity toward driverless cars. Nevertheless, the trends show that the public is rather enthusiastic about the employment of driverless cars and they seem not to care about the moral issues that come with autonomous vehicles (Nikowitz, 2015). The problem is, the general public is commonly not aware of the critical dangers of self-driving cars and is only interested in the uniqueness of the technology and its benefits. The majority of the issues that are currently experienced by the developers of driverless cars revolve around the notions of harm distribution, moral concerns, transparency, and impartiality. The connection between ethical considerations and autonomous vehicles is robust. Therefore, one of the critical responsibilities of the developers is to communicate the existing implications to the customers in a comprehensible way (Marsico, 2016). This should be done in order to let everyone who possesses adequate knowledge help the development of driverless cars before they make it to market. In other words, we are required to participate in the process of development of new technologies even if we will purchase and use self-driving cars (Neckermann, 2015).
To conclude, the process of building a fully autonomous vehicle that will be able to make ethical decisions is one of the sharpest issues that are currently limiting the development of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars in particular. The personal interests of the drivers are not currently taken into consideration. Moreover, the existing algorithms have trouble sticking to the moral values of humanity. The researchers believe that driverless cars may be able to reflect the emotions in the future. One of the most popular assumptions is that the shift from personal cars to complex transportation schemes will positively affect the safety of the road users. The problem with driverless cars is that even if we achieve transparency, we will be influenced by legal liabilities and moral dilemmas.
Discussion and Conclusions Regarding the Future of Driverless Cars
Autonomous technologies took over the movies and novels a long time ago. The current technological progress shows that the dreams of screen directors and writers may become a reality. Regardless, the majority of people are unconvinced that these technologies will be somewhat useful to humanity (Howard, 2013). There are numerous questions regarding the investments in the existing infrastructure and the outlooks of the community when it comes to autonomous technology. Numerous research projects conducted in this area support the idea that driverless cars are the future of autonomous technologies. It is important to remember that a really high percentage of accidents occur because of human error (Howard, 2013). Consequently, reducing the number of human drivers may be the answer to reducing the number of traffic accidents. It is also critical to mention that the implementation of driverless cars is projected to boost the economy as there will be fewer road accidents. Therefore, we may draw a conclusion that the employment of self-driving cars may be an effective step for the industry frontrunners and the government (Schoettle ; Sivak, 2014). These parties may also revise the pivotal aspects of human involvement in the process of driving.
I believe that during the next decade or two we will see a vast number of driverless vehicles on the streets of our cities. Nonetheless, we should realize that such a transformation would not occur overnight. It has to be a step-by-step employment of autonomous technologies rather than an attempt to take the market by storm. Some of the technologies that are utilized in driverless cars are currently implemented in conventional vehicles as well (for instance, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). These technologies ensure a certain level of automation and are design to help the driver. The most important question is the likelihood of total implementation of driverless cars and human preferences. We have to make sure that customers get what they want and do not settle for less just because the engineering community does not interview them or design a product that does not represent the best solution to the problem (Schoettle ; Sivak, 2014). Despite the complexity of customer-engineer communication, it is not the only challenge. The biggest problem is the fact that the majority of the common public do not even know how to use the technology that is designed to make driving safer.
The principal concern of the developers of driverless cars is the well-being of the environment. According to research on this subject, the quality of air has significantly improved due to the implementation of self-driving vehicles. The number of premature deaths because of bad air quality has been reduced by almost 30,000. It is reasonable to assume that the number of cars that are currently used all over the world will double over the next ten years. Therefore, we should realize that the improvements in traffic will have a significant impact on the quality of air as well. Thus far, the essential challenge of the development of driverless cars is the attitude of the public toward these vehicles and their considerations regarding this technology. Our ultimate objective is to be involved in the process of development of self-driving cars because we are the end users of this technology and the future of driverless cars is our definitive responsibility.
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