Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Google’s bus crash is changing the conversation around self-driving cars

After years of testing their self-driving cars, Google’s automated car driving program is now responsible for their very first accident. The self-driving Lexus collided with a bus in California that was driving 2 mph in February. The crash occurred because Google’s driving software assumed that the driver of the bus would slow down and make enough room for the automated car to get by, however the bus kept moving and so did Google’s self-driving car. Google has already claimed responsibility for the collision and has lost their flawless driving record after 1.45 million miles. The error that occurred in Google’s recent incident with the bus was due to the software making human assumptions. Since the automated software is driving and interacting with human drivers on the road it is essential that it makes some human assumptions, however in this specific case it falsely assumed the bus would slow down. To make a safe and efficient car Google must find the correct balance between these human assumptions and the laws of the road "It’s vital for us to develop advanced skills that respect not just the letter of the traffic code but the spirit of the road”, the company said.
This incident plays a significant role in Google’s progress in achieving a society without humans behind the wheel. Unlike many of Google’s prior technological innovations, this self-driving experiment puts civilian lives in risk. The overall goal for Google is to dramatically reduce the death toll of driving incidents by substituting humans with computer drivers. However if a driver is killed or injured by an automated driver before the system is widespread and common, it will eradicate all the progress Google has made thus far. For the general population to feel comfortable with self-automated driving their will have to be very few flaws with Google’s software before it is ever adopted.
While this article mentioned a few roadblocks regarding the future adoption of driverless cars, it neglected to mention the detrimental effect it would have on our economy. The widespread use of these cars would have damaging effects on employment; there would be no need or demand for taxi drivers, freight drivers, bus drivers and other services including Uber and Lyft. Moreover if Google’s driverless system does prevail and lead to minimal car crashes it will put thousands of auto repairmen out of business. This leads to a grand total of million of jobs lost at the expense of the implementation of innovative technology. To add to these negative economic effects, the price of automobiles would increase drastically due to the immense amount of software embedded in driverless systems making it difficult to even purchase.
While there are some economic downsides to automated driving, it has the potential to revolutionize driving. The technology would enable numerous people with disabilities such as blind people to travel independently. This advantage would also be accompanied with better traffic management and fewer accidents which in turn generates a safer environment for people on the road.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was a really interesting article. However, the big question it brings up is the car's ability to predict what other drivers are going to do. I can see the idea of fully automated cars working and being successful, however, we can not expect technology to predict a human's behavior all of the time. This can work, however, I believe it only will until it is all automated cars on the road, where there can be no irrational behaviors made by humans, such as cutting people off or speeding up to avoid letting a car in the lane. I agree with the majority of people in the article that I do not feel comfortable riding in a fully automated car, I would like some control, that is until every car is automated. This curve will take a while, since everybody is driving manual cars today, cars that can last decades. You further bring up a good point about the economy. Besides a huge spike in unemployment, I would further be concerned about how much these cars are going to cost everyday people. If a Honda will no longer be at an affordable price people may not buy their car from there. Further I do not see people spending more for cars if they are automated but there are still risks involved. This crash, though very small, really proves the point that we as a society might not be ready for automated driving cars, since the point of these cars are to be safer options for people then driving. It will not be until it has had a grace period, automation is a standard, and the kinks are really worked out, that I believe these cars will really be successful.


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