Self-driving cars are the future of automobiles and transportation, right? Well, we are entering the age of self-driving cars, but everything is not as it seems like in the movies, for example Minority Report. In the movie, Tom Cruise had a lot of fun (and problems) with the cars, which automatically drove to the destination. This is very neat and many consider that it is what the future will look like. However, movies have taught us that giving this responsibility to a computer/machine, has never resulted in a positive outcome.
You can find a lot of articles on the benefits of self-driving cars, but there are only a few that go into detail about the dangers that lurk. So, we will explore the dark side of self-driving cars.
First, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of self-driving cars, but more importantly, point out some important aspects. Aspects like dangers of self-driving cars, which most of us choose to ignore.
Slowly, everyone is getting on the bandwagon of self driving cars. We have Mercedes self-driving car, Google self-driving car, BMW self-driving car and a ton of others. When big corporations jump on a technology, it probably means it is good enough. Or, it means that there are potential profits to be made, right?
Well, it is a combination of these two things, as it should be. Self-driving cars would be easier to maintain, and also can be controlled more closely. For the owner, it means less hassle with spare parts and less breakdowns that can be a headache. For companies, it means having a 24/7 access to the car, at any given moment.
In theory, the benefits of self driving cars are endless, but always begin with one word – safety. The common thing for all car accidents is one thing – us, the human factor. People lose their focus, they overestimate the situation and are influenced by some many other, controllable and uncontrollable factors.
For example, cars from the brand Tesla have an Autopilot feature (which costs around 3,000 to 5,000 dollars to activate), which uses the built-in sensors to estimate the proximity of other cars and anticipate other drivers mistake. There has even been cases of Tesla Autopilot reacting when there is imminent danger, despite the feature not being turned on. So, no human input – no problem…right?
If we search for self driving cars accidents, we will find numerous cases and news articles. Some are obscure, such as Google self driving car being hit by a bus (where the bus is guilty for the accident, and not the car), but there are other cases where some serious malfunction has caused the accident. Slowly, news about the bad aspects of self-driving cars are getting ignored and the media focuses only on the positive side. We don’t deny that there are a lot of benefits, but the drawbacks should not be overlooked. Especially, when they can be fatal and even cause human casualties.
There are three main points that we can make here, regarding the dangers of self-driving cars.
Obviously, when the driver isn’t exactly a driver (he has no input), he cannot be held responsible for what happened. For example, Google admits the fault for each accident, even if the self driving car had nothing to do with it. This is fine for a small scale, but as self driving cars become a standard, we can assume that companies will not be so kind and take the blame.
So, when (not if) an accident happens with a self-driving car, who will be to blame? Probably the driver/owner, although his only input is choosing the car and buying it. This is a huge problem, where people would have huge fines and possibly go to jail, by not committing any crime.
If your brakes fail and you have to hit something:
a. Do you hit a young lady and a baby?
b. Do you hit 4 older people?
Although this sounds funny and absurd, it is a real-life situation that could happen. People have morals and they make the choice, but here a robot/software has to make it. Meaning, a software decides who lives or dies. This is dangerous. And it should not be overlooked.
As we can witness from the cases with Google, Yahoo and other countless companies, everything can be hacked. So, by putting the entire control of a 2 ton vehicles in the hands of the software, we are basically putting in it in the hands of a potential hacker. If your car is hacked, it becomes some sort of a death machine which can bend to someone’s will. And perhaps, this is the scariest part, because no one can hack humans…yet.