Self Driving Cars Changing Life as We Know It
Self-driving cars, or “autonomous” cars, are the subject of much discussion today. In fact, almost every major news organization is busy reporting on this technology, even though the technology itself is still in its infancy stage. Even as the regulatory process moves forward, there will still be many questions about the security of the system and the quality of the implementation of such a system.
And, as always, there are those who will criticize whatever regulation they are not a part of that state regulators are trying to implement. Unfortunately, many of the proponents of the autonomous car will never come to grips with the issues they are raising. Instead, they will blindly push for legislation.
It would be far better to have a real debate about the issues that will be posed by the advent of automated driving. That will mean that we will have to stop pointing fingers and take a long hard look at the problems and potential dangers of “safety” technologies. The idea that something should be banned because it might cause harm is very problematic.
I recently attended a meeting in Washington DC where we were debating the “autonomous cars” issue. At one point, someone mentioned that without state regulations, it might be possible for a hacker to hack into an autonomous car. Although that is technically true, what other reason can there be to ban something?
Some people suggest that we shouldn’t even have national standards for future driverless cars because then everyone will use them. However, that is no way to look at things. If we can make our roads safer, that would be a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that we want all the vehicles to be completely autonomous.
We will be in a whole new technological world, when we have fully automated cars on the road. That means that we will have to figure out ways to protect ourselves from future scenarios where computers fail. Without some way to protect ourselves, the vehicles might end up causing an accident that was not caused by human error.
We will also have to deal with the fact that it will take longer for us to take our eyes off the road and look at our cars. At some point, a car will take control of the steering wheel and we won’t know why. Think about that for a minute. Cars with a computer in them just won’t be able to keep their drivers out of trouble.
So, there is a legitimate safety issues with the vehicles.
The only question is how to control this technology. Currently, there are various laws and regulations for our cars to comply with, but they are often very vague.
In a recent article in USA Today, they mention a bill being introduced in Congress that would mandate that self-driving cars have a backup safety system in case they go wrong. However, the fact that the technology is so new and the implementation so expensive makes that bill unlikely to pass. It seems that at some point in the near future, we will be forced to regulate the safety systems in self-driving cars.
How will we be able to do this? If the government decides that they want to mandate a certain backup system, it will probably be up to the auto manufacturers to come up with it. Since so many are out to profit from this technology, they will surely fight tooth and nail against any attempt to make them comply with regulations.
Even if they do cooperate, they may not be in a position to bring their cost down to the point where we can have a backup in the event of an accident. Also, they are well aware that many people who drive autonomous cars are really against regulation and feel that we should allow for self-driving cars without any kind of rules on their operation.
This might not be the most intelligent regulation ever attempted. But, it does show the necessary results of regulation – regulation cannot prevent anything and only its ability to remove something from the market that has been proven to cause danger.