Are we ready for Driverless Cars?


Isha Chitre, Reporter

October 21, 2015 – The day that “Back to the Future II” claimed would have hoverboards, automatic jacket driers, and most importantly, flying cars. While the 21st century may not have flying cars, driverless cars are becoming a reality.


You may have even seen some of these driverless cars on local roads, especially up in Mountain View, where Google is headquartered. Google has been testing its autonomous vehicles since 2017, and is one the biggest companies to have a stake in this futuristic market. Others include Uber, Toyota, and Tesla.


An autonomous  car is capable of sensing the surrounding environment of traffic and pedestrians. The vehicle uses technologies such as GPS, radar and laser in order to navigate.


With built in Wifi systems, and the possibility of overnight travel, driverless cars have much more to offer a consumer than a standard Honda. While these vehicles may seem like a great upgrade from standard automobiles, they may not be the best option, especially in terms of public safety.


On March 18, a female pedestrian was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle was being used as a part of a test, conducted by the corporation. In response to this incident, Uber has temporarily halted the use of all self-driving vehicles on public roads.


In addition to Uber grounding all driverless vehicles, car companies, such as Toyota, have also paused the testing of self-driving vehicles. Beyond car companies, advocacy groups have begun protesting Congress’ plans to pass a bill that would permit driverless cars on public roads.


Incidents such as these raise the pressing question of whether or not it is ethical to give “robots” control over cars.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are over 33,000 fatalities caused by traffic related accidents annually, and this number continues to increase, year after year.


Since a majority of these fatalities are caused by drivers, many argue that driverless vehicles can increase public safety by preventing accidents, especially among senior citizens or teenagers, who often have higher accident rates. Using statistics such as these, advocates for driverless cars continue to push the AV START Bill, which would permit autonomous cars to drive on public roads.


However, has the use of self-driving vehicles truly decreased the number of accidents?


As Honda, Tesla, Volvo and other car companies work tirelessly to develop high-tech vehicles, it is important to remember the various accidents that are in fact caused by driverless cars. According to Reuters, “GM’s self-driving cars were involved in six accidents in September.”


This may seem like a small number, but with  multiple companies creating self – driving cars, this number will become much larger. The fact is, that software is bound to fail. Therefore, driverless cars will continue to cause accidents. However, this isn’t the main issue with the trend towards self – driving vehicles


The main issue is liability. If an accident were to occur, who would be responsible, the passenger or the vehicle? And if the vehicle is at fault, what actions would be taken? Clearly, driverless cars would stir a legal debate.


Perhaps driverless cars aren’t really where the future should be heading. Incidents such as the one in Tempe, Arizona, tell us one thing – that we need to consider safety while advancing technologically.