The future is here, and it’s developing at a rapid pace due to automation and artificial intelligence. The prime example: self-driving cars. With driverless vehicles being developed, produced, and ready to hit the streets, how our lives will change?

Image: Unsplash.

Self-Driving Cars and the Automated Economy

Self-driving cars will have a noticeable impact on our economy. Currently, at least 36% of Americans use rideshare services, and Uber alone employs roughly 2 million active drivers in the U.S. In time, it’s likely Uber would adopt automated vehicles; eventually, all those drivers would be out of jobs. In New York City alone, over 13,000 cab drivers and 60,000 private car drivers (including Uber and Lyft) could lose their income. Children will attend school in automated buses, meaning those drivers would also be out of work.

Psychologically, this is important as well. Many of the automated conveniences we interact with are just that: small bits of technology that improve work processes, help us control our lighting systems at home, and update us on packages in transit, among many other functions. Self-driving cars are different. Driving is such a human activity in the United States, and many seeing self-driving cars are going to feel that it is one of the first indications that humans are no longer necessary.

Imagine every car you get in is self-driving. It will no longer be a rite of passage to earn a driver’s license as a teenager. Machines and computers will automatically design, construct, build, sell, and drive cars. They will collect transit and safety data and use that data to improve future designs. It is no longer a human process. As Americans, this hits home, too: Ford was the initiator of the assembly line. In 2017, the auto industry employed over a million people in the United States. Most of those jobs could become extinct in the next decade.

Automated Driving and the Daily Commute

Automated driving will also change work expectations and the daily commute. Currently, about 25% of workers already work at least partially remotely. Most commuters spend just under 30 minutes commuting in their cars or on other vehicles such as buses or trains. In a commute with an automated driver:

  • The vehicle could travel at higher speeds (and be designed for higher impact), reaching a destination faster. Once no human error, or drivers, are present on the roads, automated vehicles can travel at high speeds. This lowers commute times.
  • Commuters could nap, start work, talk on a cell phone, or even change clothes for work with tinted windows while the automated driver takes them to work.
  • Commuters could accept further and longer commutes at higher speeds due to these reasons.
  • The average American commuter could reallocate 300 hours of time per year to non-driving activities. With that, you could learn a new language every five years.

In households with remote workers, workers using automated rideshare services or workers on different shifts, most households could own one or even zero cars. Other tasks, like grocery delivery, are also becoming increasingly automated, giving people less reason to leave home or work to accomplish chores.

Automated cars are classified in five levels. Most of us already drive vehicles with some form of automation in them. Level five automation means the vehicle is fully automated. These vehicles can presumably help best with commutes by cutting down on pollution and risk through the use of algorithms which maximize efficiency and safety.

Opposition to Self-Driving Cars

As nice as it is to think about napping during our office commutes in self-driving cars, there’s still a lot to consider. Many drivers consider driving a symbol of independence. If you own a car, you can get in it and go anywhere you want, whenever you want.

Some car enthusiasts are beginning to rally in support of human-driven cars. With safety on the line and 94% of crashes caused by human error, however, it’s hard not to want to leave the driving to the machines.

Opponents also dislike what automation may do to cars. A driverless car needs no steering wheel or external controls — only screens to notify you about your location, speed and other metrics you may wish to have. In truth, driverless cars might quickly come to resemble private pods on the go meant for sleeping, showering, bathing and a variety of other tasks that are productive and useful, but, as the opponents claim, take the joy and independence away from driving.

Lastly, driverless cars create the need for new industry regulations, auto and data breach insurance coverage, and legal consideration exploring who is at fault. While 76% of all businesses in the U.S. have data breach coverage, it isn’t necessarily comprehensive. When a driverless car causes a fatality, who is responsible for that damage? What happens when a wireless car doesn’t perform a security update and gets hacked?

Hacking Self-Driving Cars and the Internet of Things

Hackers can access anything from your key fob, to your smart microwave, to a government database. Imagine the face of terrorism in the future: it could involve hacking thousands of self-driving cars at once, setting them on a collision course. That doesn’t sound very safe.

For this reason, driverless cars will need top-of-the-line security. The development, implementation, and even potential self-awareness of artificial intelligence presents a major security threat. Even if the artificial intelligence is developed by well-intentioned scientists and engineers, there are always bad people out there. As machines, cars can’t make moral decisions like human drivers can; they can only rely on data or be programmed by people with their own intentions.

While it’s apparent that driverless cars can save lives by eliminating human error, are they ready to make decisions about whether to hit a trash can or a dog? Since no technology (or human programmer) is perfect, only time can reveal the answer.

Source: Becoming Human


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