Autonomous vehicles can guide themselves to a destination without any human input. It is the kind of vehicle that was once thought to be the stuff of science-fiction, but it is quickly becoming a reality. This technology looks to pave the way toward a future where computer systems and centralized servers could process enough information that our tech could take over our driving responsibilities.
These cars use a variety of technologies to create a driverless experience. They use GPS-sensing knowledge with uploaded map information to create efficient navigational resources. Onboard equipment helps the car to avoid collisions with other vehicles, people, or wildlife.
Our world might one day decide to rely on public transportation options like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project to let people quickly and safely travel the world. Until we reach that time, an evaluation of the pros and cons of autonomous vehicles helps us to know if pursuing this technology is relevant.
List of the Pros of Autonomous Vehicles
1. We could get to where we need to be faster.
Computers give us the ability to process more information at faster speeds than what the human brain can comprehend. If we are riding in autonomous vehicles that connect to a centralized system and one another, then it would become possible to arrive at our intended destinations faster while improving the safety of our roadways. The onboard computers would be responsible for the calculations of each operational issue to make passenger safety a top priority.
2. People could be productive while driving.
We are already trying to be productive while driving by multitasking. If you watch other drivers on a high-speed highway, you’ll find people putting on makeup, reading the newspaper, and talking on their phones. If there were autonomous vehicles on the roadway instead, the cars could do the driving for us while we take care of our other business. It would eliminate many of the problems that we currently encounter with distracted driving, which account for up to 80% of the accidents and road fatalities that occur each year.
3. Individuals with disabilities would have more independence with autonomous vehicles.
The current structure of an automobile requires a knowledgeable, licensed driver to operate the vehicle. There is no other way for you to go from Point A to Point B without taking an alternative form of transportation. For individuals with disabilities, waiting on the community’s Paratransit options can be an issue that wastes several hours each time they need to go somewhere. Offering an autonomous option would give people in this situation an opportunity to own a vehicle that can take them directly to where they need to go.
This advantage would reduce the number of lifestyle changes that become necessary when someone loses mobility for any reason. It can also help us to funnel more societal resources into meaningful programs that support independence.
4. This technology would reduce the amount of time we all take to commute to work.
Because an autonomous vehicle would likely speak with the other vehicles around it and the roadway, it would know where to maximize speed and movement to ensure the quickest possible commute. Other cars would react when a vehicle needed to exit a highway, for example, preventing the need to force oneself into lanes of oncoming traffic. There would be fewer instances where cutting off drivers would be necessary to stop someone from missing their exit.
Vehicles could travel in bumper-to-bumper formations while automatically merging to accommodate oncoming traffic. Although this benefit would be limited by the infrastructure available in each city, this advantage would make it a lot easier for people who travel to work each day.
5. Autonomous vehicles would reduce the number of accidents each year.
Our current transportation network relies on a series of laws, regulations, and instant human decisions to keep people safe. If one of those elements is deemed to be unnecessary, then there is a higher risk of an accident occurring. Even though autonomous vehicles would run the same risk of mechanical failure as what we drive today, the number of crashes related to errors in judgment or emotional choices would reduce dramatically.
That means we could experience lower insurance costs over time. There might be fewer road rage incidents that happen. It would even eliminate the issues of fatigue that can interfere with a driver’s decision-making process under the current set of rules we follow.
6. It would revolutionize the cargo shipping industry in the United States.
Autonomous vehicles wouldn’t need to stop for rest, food, or bathroom breaks. That means it would become possible to ship items across the country using our existing transportation networks at faster speeds. Drivers could take a hands-off approach after putting in their time, allowing the computer to take over while they take care of their personal needs.
This advantage could apply in multiple ways. Someone who is intoxicated could have their vehicle take them home automatically. A person with an injury could have their car drive them to the hospital to avoid a large ambulance fee. If you were tired, then you could sleep in the vehicle until you reach your intended destination.
7. We would consume less fuel if we adopt autonomous vehicle technologies.
Computers would make it possible for driverless cars to maximize the fuel economy of every trip in various ways. Platoon formations would enable the vehicles to draft one another to diminish the work that the engines would need to accomplish while on the road. Instant updates to operating conditions could help cars avoid high-traffic areas, weather disruptions, or other potential hazards in the street.
Because these autonomous vehicles would likely communicate with each other while on the highway, they could ensure that everyone reaps the rewards of this advantage while still implementing higher safety levels.
List of the Cons of Autonomous Vehicles
1. There would be security issues to consider with autonomous vehicles.
Computers already operate diverse facets of the driving experience today that make drivers susceptible to hackers. Individuals can access specific control mechanisms with some vehicles so that a complete loss of control over their car occurs. This problem would rise to a new level with an autonomous experience.
There would need to be new levels of protection established as a firewall around the car to ensure it would not be misused. Even though we could program processors to prevent destructive actions like vehicle attacks, there would be a risk that terrorists could program an autonomous car to engage in such activities without the permission of the owner too.
2. Autonomous vehicles would eliminate the power of human choice.
Even if you operated an autonomous vehicle that could give you every benefit in this guide, you would still need to know how to manage the car in emergencies. All operators would need to go through an education program to discover how the technology functions. This coursework would be the only way to know how to use this tech to their advantage.
Individuals would need to recognize what it would take to release the car’s self-driving mode. You would also be required to maintain the vehicle properly (oil changes, tire rotation, etc.) to ensure that it remains safe to use.
3. Glitches in the system could still create accidents.
There are times when human drivers would still be required to navigate roads that are in poor condition. Icy roadways where chains are necessitated may not afford enough optical resources for the vehicle’s sensors to operate correctly. When heavy rains are occurring, then severe problems with the laser sensors mounted on the car can happen.
That means people would be responsible for operating through potentially severe issues. There would still be a need for driving skills to be taught with this disadvantage, even if we fully adapt to this technology.
4. There would still be traffic with autonomous vehicles.
You are still going to have plenty of cars on roadways when using autonomous vehicles. Roads are only capable of handling a specific volume of traffic. You will always encounter stop-and-go driving situations in larger metropolitan areas, even with this option, solely because of the number of people using the streets to travel.
5. Cost is a significant factor for this technology today.
The future of autonomous vehicles promises us an MSRP that is equal to the value of what the modern car is at your average dealership. It would become the new standard that everyone would eventually use. Until we reach that point, this new tech is expensive enough that it falls outside of the spectrum of what the average family can afford.
Autonomous vehicles put in over $100k of technology right now, which is why you don’t see families scooping them up very quickly. When you can pay $16,000 for a commuter car, paying 8 times that figure takes a lot of groceries off of the table. That’s why you are seeing a slow infusion of automatic features, like auto-braking or parking, creeping their way into the industry instead.
6. Autonomous vehicles could cause people to lose their jobs.
As autonomous vehicles approach the market, the automation they provide creates a threat that society faces for employment. Artificial intelligence can take over the repetitive tasks that waste our time, allowing us all to become more productive. This driving technology could gradually put the workers who operate semi-trucks, trailers, and shipping for a living into bankruptcy.
Anyone who drives a taxi or operates a ride-sharing service, delivers food, or works independently on repetitive tasks is at risk for this disadvantage. Autonomous vehicles could even transport goods across the country without needing someone behind the wheel to guarantee deliveries.
7. Accurate onboard maps are necessary for this technology to work.
Waymo, which is the evolution of the autonomous vehicle company that Google (Alphabet) started, is currently creating three-dimensional maps of Los Angeles. The purpose of this work is to help their technology understand traffic congestion better. It must document shared turn lanes, curb height, and merges – even the dimensions and distance of each road. This data then combines with traffic control information to create a self-driving service that is eventually useful.
This effort will take about three months to complete, and the expense of the undertaking is upwards of seven figures. Then we must apply that approach to the thousands of communities all over the world.
Autonomous vehicles seem like a safe technology to pursue, but we must start from a foundation of security to achieve a positive result.
We have already experienced negative outcomes from hackers who know how to manipulate tech systems. It would be far easier to take over an operating vehicle to cause harm, even if the core programming of the car would prevent such actions.
That’s why our pursuit of the pros and cons of autonomous vehicles still has room to evolve. We are just beginning to see what this approach to driving is like in communities like Los Angeles and Phoenix. As it continues to improve, we may find that the positives could far outweigh whatever negatives might exist.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.