Imagine you decided to help a disabled individual cross the road. While crossing the road you came across a vehicle that repeatedly made horns. Tempted enough you decided to yell at the driver and remind him one of his school lessons about altruism. However, you met a shock: there was no homo-soul inside the car. Yes, that was one of the new generation’s driverless cars.
Should self-driving cars be allowed?
A self-driven or driverless car does not require any direct human intervention and is assisted by sensing and navigational aids. Some of the techniques used by such vehicles are laser light, Global Positioning System, milometer, computer vision and the RADAR technology. The incoming sensory data is the only tool to govern the motorcar’s set of actions. Driverless cars are projected to dominate the automobile industry within the next couple of decades. There are various arguments that support their inclusion. On the other side of the story, one can also find ample factions opposing such development.
Chief arguments by the opponents
Since this technology is in evolution phase and has not been commercialized yet, one of the major discrepancies is lack of humanely social elements. The phenomenon termed ‘trolley problem’ stresses the importance of ethical norms and considers it intrinsic to human character. For instance, a robot, with present technology, cannot recognize between a disable, a child and a normal being. Just recently, on March 19, 2018, a self-driving Uber car hit a pedestrian in Arizona, US. The major fault was reported to be a miscalculation error and mechanistic lag. The pedestrian, named Elaine Herzberg, succumbed to injuries and died within few hours. Similarly, the sensor technology cannot differentiate between a road-rift caused naturally and the one resulting from some human error.
Another argument which supports to ban such ‘human-less’ vehicular activity is its susceptibility to hacking. As the overall system is controlled by a centralized computer system, any undesirable intrusion can cause sinister consequence and havoc. Besides, driving is also perceived as a leisure activity and granting control to human-less elements is considered typical of a loathsome attitude.
Governmental regulations about safety, privacy, and handling of relevant matters concerning driver-less vehicles are almost non-existent. This makes them vulnerable to outlawry. The idea of autonomous cars, if substantiated publicly on wide scales, can strip large numbers of drivers from their jobs, resulting in a severe unemployment crisis.
Thoughts by proponents
The proponents do not want to obstruct the pace with which technology is penetrating everyday lives. According to them, change is inevitable and an optimistic attitude can help resolve the issues pertaining to such tech-centered automobile revolution. For instance, understanding the fact that computer hacking can result in a chaotic scenario, one needs to adopt effective security measures than to hinder the utilization of computers. In the same manner, any failure in operation of traffic signals can affect both humanely-driven and robot-operated cars. To solve the issue in a long run, one needs to mend traffic signals and implement road-safety mechanisms.
Normally, about 80% of the car-accidents are caused by distractions and drunk-driving. Delegating a robot the driver’s job can assure retention of maximum attention. These robots would be exemplary in obeying law and traffic codes. A potential decrease in driving errors can help the concerned focus more on other wicked felonies. But what if the car knows the accident is going to happen? Would it save the passenger or people in front of it?
Elderly and disabled drivers who face difficulties in operating their vehicles can travel fearlessly with more convenience. Also, underage drivers and children will be finding it safer to utilize autonomous cars. Since the autonomous vehicles will be primarily fueled by electricity instead of fossil fuels, subsequent reductions in the emission of Green House Gases are anticipated.
To sum up
Today, we share an affinity with electrons and electron-run gadgets are an integral part of our lives. Such rapid penetration of technology, with an unprecedented acceleration, does not seem to retard. According to Professor Moshe Vadi of Rice University, in his talk titled “Smart Robots and Their Impact on Society”, machines are going to outperform humans and, by the year 2050, about 50% of the jobs would have been taken by robots. The famous statement of a Silicon Valley tech-entrepreneur Marc Andreessen that software is eating the world still cautions the futurists and policy-makers alike.
To conclude, there is a need to adopt pro-active measures aimed at incorporating technological innovations in a safer, viable and human-friendly manner. The automobile transition from conventional to electron-fueled autonomous version must not be let stymied. A few days ago Chinese government realizing the need granted the Chinese search-engine giant Baidu a permit to test-drive their self-driving cars on 33 roads in Beijing. For driving enthusiasts who claim it as an exclusively human activity, there is a need to admit the inherent mechanistic characteristic of such activity. Driving is a mechanistic task. Letting an electronic-machine control an industrial-age metallic mechanical engine must not be construed as an anti-social act.