Unmanned cars are not just the future of car technology, they are currently being made and operated in the present. In Pittsburgh, Uber released a fleet of self-driving cars in summer of 2016 that have already made their way to the streets. These cars may have the ability to drive by themselves, but there is always a human being in the driver’s seat, supervising the actions of the car. While it will probably take decades before unmanned cars overtake the roadways as the majority, the introduction of these vehicles has its own problem: us. According to a recent study taken March 2016, 75% of drivers fear riding in an unmanned car.
The car industry has made incredible strides in creating and implementing new technologies that take some of the control away from the driver. These features include cruise control and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that help the driver with complicated tasks like parallel parking or increases the safety of passengers and pedestrians by alerting the driver of possible threats. While these features are automated and, on the whole, safe, the control of the vehicle is always in the hands of the human being operating the car.
Driverless car manufacturers assure the safety of the passengers and even promise better fuel efficiency, but the success of these technologies will hinge on our ability to take a backseat and allow the car to do the driving. There is no doubt that the technology will be developed, but there is a significant doubt in whether or not people will be comfortable in letting the technology take them safety from point A to point B.
One major concern is how with a driverless car will react in a time of crisis. For humans, our reactions are oftentimes based on emotion, but how would a robot respond to a crisis situation where there are two outcomes: either the car will hit a pedestrian or the car will put the safety of the passengers in the car in jeopardy? An interesting article was published on Car and Driver, about the algorithm Mercedes Benz’s algorithm they programmed into their vehicles because it would make the safety of the passengers of utmost importance. Debates about these implications will inevitably arise about unmanned cars in the future because it’s unclear how exactly these cars should be programmed.
This technology has the opportunity to reshape the way our roads our constructed, allowing for better productivity and efficiency. How these technologies will be implemented remains to be seen, but how people think about unmanned cars and what they believe will ultimately decide whether these cars are successful or not.