Automated cars may be driving us to disaster

Dusty Sargent.

Dusty Sargent.

Going about my normal routine one recent morning, I’m bombarded by ads from Tesla and Uber, and it makes me think, could any two transportation companies be any further apart right now?

With driverless cars becoming more and more prevalent, it seems the world is about to change.  Tesla Motors is leading the charge by equipping their entire fleet with the capability to drive autonomously.

The move brings with it all the benefits of automated control and all the soul of a robot.  These include: safer roads, better gas mileage, less traffic congestion, that sort of thing.

While that looks good on the surface, this doesn’t take into account quite a few things. Not the least of which, is human error.

“Human error?” you ask, but how could that be possible with a driverless car? Well, for starters, the drivers of the average car aren’t going to switch to them just yet.

The average car on the American road isn’t new, it’s over 11 years old, according to recent studies by HIS Markits.

Meaning the vast majority of cars on the road will be without this capability for some time yet. So, while these new cars may be smart, they won’t be able to account for the unknown – the unknown of human drivers and their unpredictable moves.

They also may be unable to account for the fear factor. What if the passenger/owner is riding along in the car, the car is navigating traffic, and someone comes out of nowhere to cut it off – does it just brace itself for the hit and slam on the brakes? Does it lift itself up and jump above traffic in some Inspector Gadget-esque feat of derring-do?  That last bit may seem absurdist, but it’s there to point out, that sometimes, stuff just happens.

It also stands to reason, that while driverless cars should result in fewer impaired drivers, and that is a great thing, the unfortunate aspect, is they are only safer in preventable accidents. Is it better or worse for the driver to be reading a book, having a snack and not watching the road when their car is rear-ended?

I know for me personally, I would prefer to know to brace myself for impact or at least throw my hot beverage to the other end of the car to avoid the burn, as well.

Another giant worry I have is the possibility of a huge likely downturn in the number of jobs in this country. Sure, delivery drivers may be safe, job-wise, because people can’t be trusted to walk out to the truck or car and grab their own package or pizza.

However, truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers – should be shaking in their boots right now, as a fair amount of the time, they aren’t required to load and unload the trucks.

Another example of job loss, off the top of my head, is Uber, Lyft and the taxi industry in general. Unmanned vehicles, picking up those with no use for owning cars, would put thousands more out of work.

The final issue I’ll discuss is the legal aspects of it all. If the car misses the light, or the speed sign, etc.: Does the car get the ticket?  Because the owner isn’t driving, and most statutes will mention the driver, how does this play out? Can we all call and text, now, too?

I’m not saying I have a better solution. I’m just saying the speed at which our laws move is nowhere near as swift as our innovation.

How about we fix the issues with our economy that are making us drive cars old enough to be in middle school, sit back, take a deep breath and work instead on something a bit closer to what we need.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.