The Benefits and Negatives of Robot Cars

I’m a big fan of robot cars and can’t wait for them to be in mainstream use (which could be as early as 2017).  Here is a brief list of benefits and possible negatives to having self driving robot cars on our roadways.

Benefits

  • Less accidents: Human error supposedly causes 93% of all car accidents (Vinh Le, 2009). Robot cars will have faster reaction times compared to human drivers. Plus as inter-vehicle communication rolls out on a wider scale, each robot car will know exactly where all the other robot cars are, how fast they are travelling, etc…. Which will allow each vehicle to take better defensive actions.
  • Less Traffic: Robot cars will be able to form a “train” caravan, following the car in front of them extremely closely, and eliminating the gap / delay that usually occurs when human drivers stop/start in traffic. Robot cars will also likely be able to drive faster due to the increased safety.
  • Eliminate Distracted Drivers: You can now text while “driving” and do lots of other stuff like sleep, watch a movie, play video games, etc…
  • Eliminate Drinking & Driving: Since you’re not actually driving, impaired driving and the associated costs would disapear.
  • Better Accessibility: Blind people could now “drive”
  • No More Parking Issues: Robot cars would just drop off passengers at their destination and go park someplace else where parking is not scarce.  They would then return as needed to pick up passengers.
  • No need to ask friends to drive you to the airport. Your faithful robot car would do it for you and then wait at home until it needs to pick you back up.
  • No need for Traffic Police: The cars would be programmed not to break laws.
  • More Bicycles? If self-driving cars are safer than human drivers it may be less dangerous to bike on the road. There may also be an opportunity to create wider bicycle lanes and better infrastructure.

Negatives

  • Cyber Security: A car’s computer could potentially be compromised, as could a communication system between cars.
  • Loss of driving-related jobs.
  • Criminal and Terrorist Activities: Self-driving cars could potentially be loaded with explosives and used to drive a bomb to its destination or could be used in other criminality acts such as getaway vehicles
  • Ethics: Ethical problems arise when a robot car is in an unavoidable crash and must choose between multiple harmful actions that could lead to death. Do you swerve into the group of children or the group of adults? At what ratio of children vs adults do you pick one group over the other? Should you self destruct yourself along with your owner to save bystanders?. These choices are already made by humans every time they encounter such a situation but choosing an official course of action will be very controversial.

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