Author: Ioannes Salamanes
Editors: Lydia Ren and Anand Soma
Artist: Uzouf Baagil
Did you know that in the United States alone, about 37,000 lives are lost to vehicular accidents every year and about 94% of traffic accidents are caused by human error. However, this number can be lowered by the development of new technology, specifically self-driving cars. They will make our roads safer, prevent injuries, and overall save lives. Additionally, self-driving cars will lower the cost of insurance, licensing, and repairs, which will save us money.
It’s no secret that owning a car can be pretty expensive. However, with driverless cars, people would be less inclined to spend thousands of dollars on a car because automated vehicles would offer convenient and low-cost transportation. The director of the program in transformation at Princeton University, Dr. Alain Kornhauser, states that although privately owned vehicles would not vanish completely, the number of cars owned per family would drop significantly. Dr. Daniel Sperling, the director of the Institute of Transportation at the University of California, Davis, states“We’re moving to a future where people don’t own cars.”
Dr. Chris Gerdes, the director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University, states that “We’ve made the world rather unfriendly for people who are walking and biking; cars have essentially won.” According to a report issued by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, driverless cars would allow streets to become narrower because they would move with more precision which would allow for more space for cyclists and pedestrians. This would also allow for pedestrians to “cross the streets where it makes sense, rather than trek a mile to the nearest stoplight,” as said by Mollie Pelon, the organization’s technology and city transportation program manager. Some added benefits of driverless cars include safer intersections and a lessened need for parking spaces. Additionally, there could possibly come a day when traffic lights would no longer be needed because driverless cars know how to avoid collisions.
Businesses will also be benefited from driverless vehicles, more specifically driverless vans and trucks. Retailers businesses could start bringing their services and goods directly to their customers, instead of having the customers come to them. Dr. Gerdes claims that there is a possibility of mobile gyms that could park in your driveway for an hour or two before moving on to the next customer. He also touches on the possibility of mobile clothing stores that would be equipped with fitting rooms and stocked with apparel. In Santa Clara, California, a startup called Robomart is aiming to send mobile grocery stores to customers. Toyota has also revealed plans to develop a self-driving car that could serve as a hotel room, mobile office, and or even deliver packages.
Another added benefit of having self-driving cars is that more people would be able to live independently. This includes people who have trouble getting around because of a disability, illness, or elderly people would be able to get places more conveniently with driverless cars. Public transportation may be available now, but not all places have access to it. They also do not always accommodate wheelchairs, so public transportation is not that accessible yet. Some really exciting news is that Waymo, the autonomous car subsidiary of Alphabet, which is Google’s parent company, has been testing with Braille to make the use of driverless cars easier for those who are visually impaired.
A 2017 report on trends in U.S. real estate by researchers from the MIT Center for Real Estate predicts that once commuters won’t need to be driving all the time, long commutes would become more acceptable because commuters will be able to read, relax, or even sleep on their way to work or wherever they’re headed. This will help commuters feel less stress, especially those who have to travel long distances in heavy traffic. Additionally, this could allow workers to live further away from their workplaces which could reduce the overpopulation that is becoming a trend in many major cities.
While there are many benefits that will come with the development of driverless cars, there may be some drawbacks. One example would be a decline in donor organs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in recent years, about 13 percent of donor organs have come from people who have died in car crashes. While this may not seem like a big number, the number of donor organs would still be decreased which could lead to a shortage of various donor organs, such as hearts and livers.
Probably one of the most significant challenges that come with the development of self-driving cars is human anxiousness to try such new and seemingly abstract technology. It is completely understandable considering that trying new things is never easy. There will come a time when older, human-driven vehicles will have to share the roads with driverless cars. This in itself could cause some problems because while self-driving cars would be virtually perfect by following all traffic laws at all times, humans are not so perfect. It is in human nature to be erratic and therefore abrupt braking, speeding, and sudden lane changes might confuse the self-driving cars.
Every day, new technologies and advancements are being made and new ideas are constantly being introduced. Not so long ago, self-driving cars were just an idea of the future. Now, they are a reality. Not many people have access to self-driving cars right now, but they do exist. Before we know it, they will become more available to the public. It is important for us to be aware of what this life-changing technology will bring along with it.
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