By Arthur Cortez
More and more autonomous vehicles are being tested on roads across the nation, but there are people who question the move towards driverless cars. In March, the nation witnessed what is considered the first ever human death involving an autonomous vehicle. The victim was identified as Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old pedestrian, who was hit and killed by the SUV as she crossed a street in Tempe, Arizona. This all took place on March 18, 2018, and soon after Uber suspended further testing of self-driving cars on all North American cities.
This raises the controversy of whether autonomous vehicles should be allowed for public testing and eventually public use. There are those who would argue that the AV’s should be allowed for testing since they could reduce accidents. There is 36,000 car accident related deaths in the US and many believe that the solution to this issue is to remove the possibility of human error. However, there may be a person in the driver’s seat, ready to intervene in case of emergencies. “I think self-driving cars have only recently been introduced to the public so they first need to prove their true potential, otherwise we can’t really hand the wheel over to an Artificial Intelligence that we still don’t know much about,” says senior Angel Cuellar.
Although these computers are not 100% reliable, they are more so than humans. Tesla and Waymo are the top two companies currently in the race for creating the ultimate self- driving vehicle. On one hand, Tesla is collecting data from its test vehicles on the road to determine their performance under its current semi-autonomous system, Autopilot. On the other hand, Waymo is using highly advanced computer simulations which allows the vehicle to learn from errors in order to minimize them in the future. Competition among big-name companies and advancements in our modern technology will gain these autonomous vehicles attention, as they will soon prove that they are more reliable than humans. Not to mention, drunk driving and other leading causes of car accidents, won’t be a problem anymore.
Another argument in favor of autonomous vehicles is that they will save space since the cars could literally be inches apart and would still be able to avoid crashing or causing an accident. Imagine a world where vehicles could literally be a hair strand apart. From the way cars are spaced on the road to how they are in parking spaces at the supermarket, all this would be made possible through artificial intelligence. The way this works is that the vehicles would be “communicating” with each other at all times. With all these AI potent cars working together there would essentially be no errors made.
Of course, this would only be possible if 100% of cars on the road are self-driving, but the cost of purchasing an autonomous vehicle and the big change would be too much for all Americans. Not everyone can afford an autonomous vehicle and there are even those who believe that it would take out the fun of driving. As kids, we all grow up wishing to one day learn how to drive a car just like we learned how to ride a bike. It would be no fun to have a car that’s meant to be driven, and not being able to experience it yourself.
Abraham Gonzalez, a senior at Samueli Academy says, “ I think autonomous vehicles are still a work in progress, I don’t think they should be available to the public just yet.” Further testing seems to be the main argument opposing autonomous vehicles. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, described his timeline for self-driving cars in December of last year. He talks about his bold predictions for improvements in self-driving cars and how most have been accomplished before the expected date. Even though there has been a lot of outstanding success with autonomous vehicles in a short period of time, the hype may be restricting further success. Tesla and Waymo should take things slow to ensure the product’s quality is at its absolute finest.
Without testing, the number of car deaths remains the same and there is really no other alternative to try and lower these numbers. States across the US have temporarily forbidden autonomous vehicle testing after the first human death involving an autonomous vehicle. All lives matter, but looking at the bigger picture, if AV’s are a potential solution to save more lives, then further testing is the way to go. People will continue to cause accidents and people will die, it’s the saddening truth, but through trial and error, the autonomous vehicle can really make an impact in our lives.
Autonomous vehicles seem to be promising for the future, but just not in the near future. Movies like Back to The Future made people fantasize about having flying cars in the future, which is right about now and we haven’t even accomplished that! Autonomous vehicles need to be further inspected as well as tested before they become the next big thing. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
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