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An Automated Future: Self Driving Cars

As if we are finally seeing the vision our parents and grandparents had of the “World Of Tomorrow” self-driving, “smart” cars are finally preparing to exit their concept stage and creep into the world of consumer availability. While the jury is still out on how well-regulated smart cars will need to be, the eagerness to own one among industry buffs and your every-day consumer is growing with each new statistic, report and feature touted by manufacturers. While one could spend nearly a week going over each of the intricate details and features vendors wish to promote, a primer on the overall positive experience of a smart car-ubiquitous world is something that needs to be considered.

One of the often perceived benefits would be the immensely positive effect on our economy. It is no secret that car culture is one that dominates the economy here in the United States, both positively and negatively. With smart cars aiming to lower incident rates that contribute negatively to that factor into that variable. This includes:

  • Greater driving accuracy and greater control, putting a significant dent into the over $300 billion in the costs related to accidents. Eliminating human error from driving may provide a sharp decrease in accidents towards both other drivers and pedestrians.
  • Possibility of making drastic changes to several economies centered around auto travel. Industries such as taxis, public transportation and even freight are suspect to this, as heavy players in the industry and start-ups will not need to factor in costs of keeping their transport fleet under human operation, with greater efficiency and less costs.
  • Lessening of road congestion, especially in larger cities such as Los Angeles and New York, which are often inundated with auto-traffic to the point where public transport is far more practical. If less people spend less time in traffic burning gas unnecessarily, this would do a great service to the environment and the nation-wide effort for a cleaner, greener USA.

sdc1            Image: © Associated Press

There is no doubt that replacing the human operator with advanced AI will yield immediate benefits. AI is not subject to the errors that can come from the intervention of emotion, lack of attention and physical limitations, such as a driver who cannot make a sudden t left turn do their arm having less energy from a minor stroke suffered months earlier or a power-lifter who pulled a tendon during his leg day, and could not jam on the brakes so suddenly. A pair of sensors with an unclouded, always-analytic mind driving the car would most likely find remedies to these situations in less than a second.

sdc2               Image:  © CNet

Socially, America is more than ready to embrace the idea of an automated network of vehicles, owing to a yearning for a greener way of life and a much needed overhaul to our auto network. Though this will not be the auto-epiphany we are expecting, as it will take time for our current consumer market to fully embrace and integrate, especially given then expected high-costs of initial cars, similar to what happened when hybrid vehicles first hit the market over a decade ago. Societal changes would include:

  • Consumer demand will be inevitable. Once the concept has been made available for the consumer market, it will only grow with time as the technology costs less, demand increases and concessions need to me made to allow more end users on the roads, thus kick-starting the benefits listed above.
  • With the ever growing concern over smart vehicles being hacked or having “control” wrested from the occupant, this will only drive the tech industry to come up with more safeguards against this, which will only benefit our technology and network-based security solutions over a wide range of other consumer products and industries. The fear is real, but so is the opportunity to suppress it across the board.
  • The thought of integration with other devices and peripherals (something that current autos are embracing with rapid speed, is nearly limitless.

sdc3                         Image: © Delphi Automotive

The primary source of disdain for the oncoming popularity of automated vehicles is leaving your transport of an emotionless, 100% logical artificial mind. Though it will be programmed to make the best possible decisions with each movement, turn, acceleration and braking, many drivers can attest to how unpredictable the road and it’s other drives can be, and even a computer can be caught off guard, or it’s senses confused by an activity or motion it cannot process a routine for. Thankfully, these are issues that have been dealt with for decades on computers and AI, and will be ironed out with time.

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