The Driverless Car: The Impact It Will Have On Our Society



Written By: Bianca Mazziotti

Illuminated Transcript:

Hey everyone, this is Bianca and this week we are talking about ICTs, which is information communication technology, and today I want to talk about driverless cars.

 I mean, how cool it would be to own one. Not having to worry about causing a collision and being able to be on your phone without breaking the law sounds like every young adults dream. I wanted the car initially because I wouldn’t have to drive anymore, and terrify myself every time I was on the roads because quite frankly, I’m scared of killing someone. This piece of technology would help me run away from those negative emotions, and I would not be responsible for someones death, it's a win-win. When I first heard about the driverless car I was fully on board. Not having to be worried about if I was going to get into a collision every time I was on the road would be amazing. Having a safer option instead of relying on flawed humans, such as myself, to get me to where I need to go and in one piece, is something that I look forward to. It’s daunting to know that human error is responsible for over 90% of collisions. I’m curious about what society thinks about the driverless car, but first I want to go back and see what we thought about the first cars that went out on the market.

I was wondering how people felt when the first cars came out. Did they feel like their prayers were answered when they were able to get to where they needed to go faster and more efficiently? Were they scared of trusting this new piece of technology with their lives? I decided to figure out what they thought about the first automobiles and I found the answer within an article I read by encyclopedia.com titled “Automobiles”:

 (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile#/media/File:PresidentFirstCar.jpg

The automobile seemed to fire the imagination of the American people, who provided a large and ready market for the nascent industry's products. (“Automobiles”, 2003)

So they saw the automobile as an opportunity for adventure, and they were excited about what that could bring them. And now I'm wondering, is there the same excitement about the driverless car, are we still wanting that adventure? Or are we only focused on getting from point A to point B the fastest way possible?

With the release date for the driverless car fast approaching they will be on our roads soon, and the public has mixed feelings about these cars. A portion of the public feels that it is an amazing new technology that could really benefit us. If they worked properly, it would save so many lives and we would not have to worry as much on the road. Others are skeptical, and do not like the idea of not being in control. They have trust issues when it comes to technology and are not confident that it will be an asset. I found a YouTube video where various types of people from different walks of life go for a ride in a fully autonomous car:

(2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqSDWoAhvLU 

In this video you can clearly see the impressed looks on their faces as the car drives them through an obstacle course. One older gentleman enthusiastically shouting at the end "I love this." To have the ability to be independent whether you're blind, too old, or too young is the way of the future. For right now, I want to look at the past. I was wondering how long we have been thinking about creating driverless cars? It appears to have been much longer than I thought it was. 

For decades there has been a dream for humans to be able to get from point A to point B fast, efficiently, and with the car doing all the work. In the 1930’s the fascination with driverless vehicles became apparent through science fiction novels and magazines.

(3) http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/where-to-a-history-of-autonomous-vehicles/

Humans have been working on artificial intelligence since 1939, which has resulted in many ups and downs, and the history we have with artificial intelligence is a lot lengthier than is commonly known. And now we do not have to fantasize about it any longer because it is becoming a reality.

 (4) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google%27s_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_Car.jpg

Today, many car companies are working on creating a safe, reliable, driverless car to come out on the market, at the latest, 2024. While the cars still have a little ways to go, Google is trying to push their driverless car to be ready for as early as 2017. In fact, Google has already been spending 6 years testing their vehicles on the road.

(5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qE5VzuYFPU

Although, it is not ready to be purchased yet, they are discussing many of the benefits that it could bring, and how it will revolutionize how we drive.

The driverless car promotes connectedness and productivity. Without having to focus on the road you will be able to keep in contact with your family and friends and get your work done on the go. This car uses GPS signals to know who is around you so the chance of a collision is supposed to be obsolete. Ryan Hagemann, who works at the libertarian advocacy organization as a civil liberties policy analyst, says:

In theory, if you have 100 percent fully autonomous vehicles on the road, while you still might have accidents on the margin in rare situations, you're basically looking at anywhere from a 95 to 99.99 percent reduction in total fatalities and injuries on the road. (Hagemann,2015)

If this statement is correct, driverless cars could save so many lives, and you wouldn’t be putting your life at risk every time you’re on the road.  

Along with the positives there come a lot of negatives that get overlooked. Aside from the fact that there are currently still technical issues that need to be sorted out, there are legal issues such as: if these cars do get into accidents, whom do we blame? Do we blame the car company or the owner of the vehicle? This issue still has not been sorted out. 

Another issue is the fact that driverless cars could take jobs away from people that really need them. Uber is a prime example of this because it is said to be the first company that is aiming to become fully equipped with artificial intelligence vehicles. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, discusses the changes that will occur if they have driverless vehicles, here is a quote: 

 The reason Uber could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car—you’re paying for the other dude in the car. When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle.(Kalanick, 2015)

Although, they are spinning this as a positive, since customers will be paying less, they are not mentioning the fact that thousands of people will be out of jobs if all the cars are self driven. Technology is taking over at an alarming rate, eventually everything will be demonstrating some degree of artificial intelligence. I was wondering if this over consumption of technology would have an effect on us emotionally as well. 

With human error resulting in over 90% of collisions and distracted driving taking up a majority of the reason why car accidents happen, I question why we are so distracted? The fact that we are getting into collisions because we cannot get off our phones is a sign that we are not able to deal with our own thoughts and ourselves. We need to be constantly stimulated to feel satisfied. Even a few minutes of being disconnected from our social circles seems to be a big deal to many. And what does this say about us as a society?

I think it's so difficult to really know what is effecting us or not, especially, if it is such a dominant part in our lives. Like how many of you have stopped and wondered “would I be a different person if technology didn’t exist?” Would I talk the same, think the same or act the same if I didn’t have access to any sort of technology? We’re basically the guinea pigs of psychologists everywhere trying to find out if it has really made an impact on society, and with new technology constantly being shoved in our faces it’s hard to live a life without the newest gadgets.

I decided to do some research on this subject. It didn’t take me too long to find information on this topic, a book written by Dr. Archibald D. Hart titled “Thrilled to Death” discusses how our society is experiencing a deficit when it comes to the over stimulation, he claims that:

Our continuous pursuit of high stimulation is snuffing out our ability to experience genuine pleasure in simple things. (pg. 2)

 Hart also states that people now have a difficult time feeling enthusiasm and joy when it comes to life’s small rewards. In other words we are slowly numbing ourselves from legit emotion and we are leaning towards a false sense of connection that will never fully replace face-to-face communication.

As much as we would like to believe that technology isn’t affecting us it really is. We always need to be entertained, to be stimulated in some way, or we freak out. Technology seems to be having a greater impact than we realize. I'm curious as to the long term effects that constant stimulation will have. 

Also, going back to why I initially wanted the car, it was to avoid hurting someone, but it was also to avoid a negative emotion. A lot of the times when I'm driving, I often have the thought "I could die right now" or "one wrong move and I could kill someone". It's bad, I have these thoughts too often, but it leads me to the thought that maybe humans are too unpredictable to drive. I find driving to be such a huge responsibility, that I think it's amazing that we give 16 year olds licenses let alone a 21 year old like me. So I think this one piece of technology, could open up a completely new way of looking at the road. And this brings me to a quote that opened my eyes about where our society is headed and what driving on the road will mean decades from now. I found the quote in Gary Marcus' piece titles "Moral Machines" and in it he discuses what the future of driving could be like. He says that:

 (6) https://www.flickr.com/photos/kieronroberts/7461469052/

Within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and human driving will be so great you may not be legally allowed to drive your own car, and even if you are allowed, it would be immoral of you to drive, because the risk of you hurting yourself or another person will be far greater than if you allowed a machine to do the work. (Marcus, 2012)

I find that so fascinating, it could eventually be illegal for you to drive. It's so crazy, we give 16 year olds licenses but in the future it will be looked down upon if anyone drives. We see driving as such a common and rewarded milestone when you turn 16, but in the future it would be frowned upon if anyone got behind the wheel of a car. I find that really exciting and I think it could be a great benefit not just the people that fear the road. To be able to have the blind, the old, and the young become independent and able to get to where they need to go without relying on anyone. To have your car pick up your pizza, or pick you up from a drunken night out, is where we are headed. We are looking to cut out human error by not allowing humans to have any control. I wonder if this could make us lazy as a society, basically, just getting a machine to do all our work for us because apparently nothing that we do is good enough, as a society we are aiming for perfection. People are looked down upon for making mistakes. We are looked down upon for being human because we are now comparing ourselves and our work to that of a robot that is programmed for perfection. I decided to try to find information on where we are headed as a society and I found a fascinating video about what our future could really look like by The Daily Conversation:

(7) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1tfOeChenQ 


This video discusses the fact that:

In the U.S. 40% of the deaths, caused by car accidents, are due to the consumption of alcohol. Computers do not have the ability to get drunk, get distracted, or fall asleep at the wheel. So, as more autonomous cars hit the road the amount of deaths that occur on the road is expected to approach zero.  

The video also goes into the fact that traffic signals and stop signs will cease to exist, when all the vehicles on the road are able to drive themselves. Cars will know where everything is around them so they will be able to drive through with ease because it will be able to communicate with the other vehicles on the road. It will also be able to map out a direct route for you to get to where you need to go, faster. 

A part of the video that I found really interesting was the fact that in the future, during hurricanes, fires, and other situations of distress, a driverless car could be there helping with rescue missions. That's cool because then we would not be risking anyone else's life by trying to save the people that need help. We would be more efficient this way too.

Driverless cars coming out on the market would also mean less cars per house hold. The driverless car could drive you to work, drive itself back home, and drive your spouse to work. There is also the possibility of no one owning cars in the future and just getting picked up by driverless ones. 

Another thing to add is the fact that Google's self driving car that is coming out, will be electric. Their cars are smaller so they are also more energy efficient that way as well. 

The driverless car seems to have so many benefits, but are we thinking things through?  It is great to have all these new ways to improve our lives but there are a lot of negatives that could really impact us. Are we sacrificing this ability to be fully alone, with our thoughts, able to think of our own opinions without constantly being bombarded by everyone else's? Technology seems to be pushing us away from our emotions. It is leading us down a path of false connection. Leaving us feeling disconnected in the end. We would be taking away so many jobs from people that really need it because the machine can do it better and faster than us. However,  there would be fewer deaths, and the driverless car could really bring a positive change to our current way of driving. Also, since no one would be driving the car, we would have the ability to spend more quality time with the people in the vehicle. 

I'm Bianca, and this was InQuery, thanks for listening.


Works Cited:

"Automobile." Dictionary of American History. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 

<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Cox, J. (2015, January 15). 5 confounding questions that hold the key to the future of

driverless cars. Retrieved from:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/01/15/5-confounding-questions-that-hold-the-key-to-the-future-of-driverless-cars/

Harris, Mark. "Uber Could Be First to Test Completely Driverless Cars in Public." Spectrum IEEE. Spectrum IEEE, Sept

14, 2015. Web. <http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/uber-could-be-first-to-test-completely-driverless-cars-in-public>.

Hart, A. (2007). Thrilled to death: How the endless pursuit of pleasure is leaving us

numb. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=rdIHAWuHcgQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=has+technology+made+us+numb&ots=WPooUFLef0&sig=rUYOPLRTkWyk1oc2Zag-Tmzg8Ow#v=onepage&q&f=false

Keating, Lauren. "The Driverless Car Debate: How Safe Are Autonomous

Vehicles?" Tech Times. Tech Times, 28 July 2015. Web. 

<http://www.techtimes.com/articles/67253/20150728/driverless-cars-safe.htm Hagem>.

Marcus, Gary. "Moral Machines." New Yorker, 24 Nov. 2012. Web. 

<http://users.manchester.edu/Facstaff/SSNaragon/Online/100-FYS-F15/Readings/Marcus, Moral Machines.pdf>.

Shahan, Zachary. '10 Fun Facts About Google's Self-Driving Car, And 1 Big Tip Regarding A Michigan Auto Partner'.                               TreeHugger. N.p., 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Webber, Marc. "VaMoRs." CHM Blog Where to A History of Autonomous Vehicles

Comments. Computer History, 2013. Web. <http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/where-to-a-history-of-autonomous-vehicles/>.


  Images and Videos:

1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile#/media/File:PresidentFirstCar.jpg

2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqSDWoAhvLU

3) http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/where-to-a-history-of-autonomous-vehicles/

4) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google%27s_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_Car.jpg

5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qE5VzuYFPU

6) https://www.flickr.com/photos/kieronroberts/7461469052/

7)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1tfOeChenQ

Audio:

Paalanen, Matti. Instrumental. Matti Paalanen. Rec. 26 June 2015. Jamendo Music, 2015.

MP3.