The Challenges of Self-Driving Cars
Just when you thought self-driving cars were only a thing from the distant future (or maybe even ripped straight from a James Bond movie), the advent of technology makes it more possible for the general consumer. It was as early as the 1920’s that these machines were first experimented on, but it wasn’t until 2009 that self-driving cars became a staple thing. Google introduced the Waymo self-driving car within that year, and commuting life was never the same since then. With a mission “to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around,” Waymo is slowly trying to break through the market with more sales than when it was first introduced.
According to The New York Times, Waymo’s cars are intended to be used for ride-hailing services in various cities, allowing thousands of commuters to have a more comfortable experience and convenient way of going to and from where they need to be. That being said, self-driving cars seem to be one of the most significant innovations that allow ease and comfort in driving. However, just because this invention allows us to enjoy a new lifestyle, it doesn’t mean we can rely on them entirely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes each self-driving car into five levels that define its extent of automation:
- Level 1 – An Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) assists the driver with the control of the steering wheel and brakes alternately.
- Level 2 – The ADAS controls the steering and brakes simultaneously under some circumstances. The driver, however, still needs to be alert while driving.
- Level 3 – An Automated Driving System (ADS) controls the entire car, but the human driver must be able to take back control when the ADS requires it.
- Level 4 – The ADS has full control of the car and does the driving in certain circumstances. The human driver doesn’t have to pay full attention.
- Level 5 – The ADS has full control, with the human treated merely as a passenger.
While self-driving cars provide users and consumers with advancement, the safety requirements for these vehicles are a bit complicated—especially when it comes to its efficiency, endurance, and effectiveness. It’s not that self-driving cars are inherently evil, but there are a couple of things to consider before we decide to trust these machines with our lives.
Owning a self-driving car is expensive. True, these machines allow us to enjoy the ease in driving, but with this advanced technology comes a hefty price tag. Typically, a self-driving car can set you back about $7K to $10K and more, depending on the model. These prices are expected to rise in the coming years, according to Fast Company.
There’s a possibility of a system malfunction. Even the latest phone models and smart appliances suffer from an occasional system failure. Want more for a self-driving car? Programming can do lots of incredible things, but that doesn’t mean it will be 100% slick and perfect. Bugs and errors eventually surface, especially with updates on its software and code. These errors can cause glitches in the vehicle’s system, making accidents a horrifying thing to imagine. On top of that, you’re going to have to get insurance and the added cost of hiring accident lawyers, making point #1 a bit more relevant.
Licensing issues. In theory, self-driving cars eliminate the need for humans to operate the vehicle, therefore, making the driver’s license irrelevant. Because of this, it’s going to be hard to pinpoint the blame should a road accident take place. Not to mention how hard it is for the government to control its production and to make sure that it performs well. NHTSA Senior Associate Director Dan Smith touched on the challenge of licensing these self-driving cars. “It gets to be a massive challenge to figure out how will the government come up with a performance standard that is objective and testable for so many different scenarios where failure could possibly occur,” Smith said. “Part of that has to do with if we should be looking at the underlying electronics.”
More pollution in the long run. Self-driving cars seem to hint at a more sustainable environment by minimizing emissions and energy use. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to research from the Department of Energy, self-driving cars might have a wider range of negative effects on the environment. It could drastically reduce energy consumption by 90%, but it can also increase it by more than 200%. Self-driving cars can save fuel, but if the intensity of usage requires more, savings might not be the case.
Privacy Issues. Since a self-driving car uses software and code to function, that means the internet will also have to be in use. Also, third-party entities would also have to track the vehicle wherever it goes. The Guardian reports that companies could treat the vehicle as a “goldmine of personal data.” Although some companies are working towards its security, data leaks and information breach can still happen.
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