Self-Driving Cars

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The constantly changing innovations in the field of self- driving vehicles have created a new frontier in which car companies are rushing to out-do one another. As technology hits the road, society is faced with the task of keeping up. New problems arise and cultural norms change in order to form a new understanding of what it means to be a responsible driver today and what that could mean in the future.

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In the future implementing self-driving technology into our society could enhance mobility and safety of the driving experience by taking human error out the equation. Every day people die in traffic accidents many of these are due to impaired driving such as drinking or substance abuse (). Even without the influence of alcohol and drugs people regularly make mistakes that lead to injury, destruction, and death. When the control is given to the computer it eliminates the bad choices that are made by humans. However, currently, there are different levels of vehicle automation (see diagram 1). Of the self-driving vehicles that are in development, there is the level two vehicle that assists with driving but is still dependent on human direction and the level four which are meant to be fully operational without humans. both of which could potentially help save lives when implemented correctly. The level two like the Tesla helps to assist the everyday driver by taking control to prevent collisions that the human is unable to detect. The level four and higher like the google car are meant to be used completely without the help or control of humans. Making transportation of the elderly and disabled possible as well as round the clock transportation of goods. Ideally, they would both expedite travel and decrease the risks of an accident; however, the technology may not quite be to that point yet.

In theory, the self-driving car retrieves the idea of the chauffeur. The passengers who wish to get from point A to point B put forth little or no effort. For example, when rich and important people had a chauffeur drive them around, they were considered wealthy, but now having a Tesla has also become a symbol of wealth. John Leonard the VP of research at the Toyota institute brought up the idea that people may even go drive cars as a luxury, like how they go ride horses (Harvard T.H. 2018). As a fun pass time rather than a means of transportation. Relying on something else rather than someone else to transport them. On the other hand, with self-driving vehicles, we also retrieve that time lost while driving which allows people to be more productive in other ways. Without the need of a driver or limited use of the driver people- whether they should or not- are able to multitask or put their concentration elsewhere.

With full vehicle automation it renders the driver obsolete, but with the current technology that is on the road, drivers are still required to interact with the vehicle. Right now, technology replaces only some functions. If we were to look at some of the newer cars coming out that aren’t self-driving even, they have automated functions like park assist, lane keeping, and auto-brake. These technologies have already begun to replace many of the motorist’s functions. as more of these components are integrated into the vehicle we will see less and less of the driver’s participation in the driving socio-technical system. While it will be a long time before the driver is completely out of the loop; it is still important to consider what the technology is replacing and whether or not it is currently capable of doing so.
After all, self-driving vehicles are created to make quick decisions for us in order to save the passengers life that is reversed when the vehicles fail and require human action. For example, the fatal crash in Silicon Valley, in which a Tesla on auto-pilot had stopped tracking the vehicle in front of it and speed up before crashing into a median (guardian 2018).

With these types of vehicles taking over more responsibility drivers can become relaxed with the vehicle and can overestimate its abilities. Still, it’s hard to measure what is needed of you from your car, because the technology keeps advancing. At which point are we interfering and when should we intervene and how do we differentiate between these two when we have split seconds away from crashing into a median? The algorithms for that will need further testing before they will be able to prevent 100% of accidents. But seeing the news of accidents involving these vehicles leads society to question the path towards full automation. How should we as a society regulate these cars and how do keep people apart of the sociotechnical loop? In a Harvard panel discussion, specialists discussed another incident in which a google self- driving vehicle had killed a pedestrian and what the vehicles correct response should have been (Harvard T.H. 2018). The instance reminded me of the allegory of the people on the train tracks one with someone you love and the other with thirty innocent people and the speeding train headed their way. Does the car pull the switch to save the passenger? What should we be teaching self-driving vehicles in order to keep the roads the safest?

As a result of self-driving cars people aren’t as aware of how to solve the issues that come up. If people become too comfortable with the vehicle’s control, we lose the capability to respond to problems the way we could if we weren’t distracted .an arguably unintended effect of the automation of delivery trucks  

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Self-Driving Cars. (2020, Apr 23). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from
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