To best present my research, I’ll be creating a digital artefact consisting of three podcasts focusing on different aspects of self-driving cars. The topics will include regulation, car culture and the technology needed to run these machines. Regulation will focus on the legislation that is currently put in place across Australia, America and Sweden as well as what needs to be considered in the future. With car culture, I will focus on what changes might happen in the future including the effect on jobs such as taxi drivers, mechanics and even police since there would be no need for RBT’s and the highway patrol when these driverless cars are made to obey the law in every situation. Also, it will be interesting to take note of possible changes in perception between cars and prestige as, in modern times, different models of cars can be a sign of wealth. Finally, I will be looking at the technology behind the self-driving car and the problems that could arise including the possibility of hacking and cyber-terrorism.
For now, I’ll focus on regulation in this post and give a general overview of what legislation is currently in action. In Australia, it seems that South Australia is ahead of the curve having just legalized driverless cars, paving the way for the country to move towards autonomous technology (Tucker, 2016). The state has already conducted self-driving trials with Volvo models late last year and this will allow driverless technology to further develop and help create safer roads – as long as people are willing to change their driving habits.
On the other side of the world in the country of Sweden, self-driving technology is taking a step forward by introducing 100 autonomous cars for willing commuters. Using “specially-picked roads that have no cyclists or pedestrians” (ONE News, 2016), drivers will have the chance to experience what it will feel like to keep their hands off the wheel on their daily routine. So far, the majority of trials have either had a test driver in the vehicle or had no humans in the car making Sweden a definite leader in improving autonomous technology.
With America being the base for Google’s self-driving cars, there has been an ongoing call to create “uniform rules across the country” (Naughton, 2016) since, at the moment, only 23 states have implemented important legislation to oversee their research. Although cautious of the developing technology, many are supporting the roll-out of autonomous vehicles due to the belief that they will help lower collisions on the road. Fatigue, drink driving and distracting factors such as eating and talking on the phone will no longer be an issue in driverless cars and automated vehicles also help improve mobility for the elderly and disabled. With this in mind, the benefits of this technology are worth considering, but their needs to be a nationwide shift to allow self-driving cars to be released for the masses.
It is interesting to see what countries will be the first to take up driverless cars on a mass scale and whether society will reach a point where people no longer drive. At this point, the technology itself has a lot of room for improvement and governments still need to consider what laws will have to change, but the potential for safer driving conditions and the ability to spend your commute doing other tasks makes it well worth the wait.
– Naughton, K. (2016), Driverless car rollout seen stalling without nationwide rules, Bloomberg. Accessed at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-03-15/uniform-u-s-rules-for-driverless-cars-urged-to-speed-rollout
– ONE News (2016), ‘Eyes of the road’: Driverless car experiment to send a whole new message, TVNZ. Accessed at: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/eyes-off-road-driverless-car-experiment-send-whole-new-message
– Tucker, H. (2016), South Australia has just legalised driverless cars, Business Insider Australia. Accessed at: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/south-australia-has-just-legalised-driverless-cars-2016-4
Technology is constantly evolving with an emphasis on making life more convenient and helping certain chores become less time-consuming. Self-driving cars are one of these technologies and it’s easy to see the ways in which you could benefit from them. You could be dropped off at work and the car could park itself, you would no longer need a designated driver on those late-night celebrations, there would be no need to get angry at someone who didn’t indicate and you could spend your time productively as you were chauffeured to your destination. Such simple changes that provide a whole new way of living, and yet there are still a few hurdles to cross before its initiation – on top of the fact that the technology has not been perfected.
With both self-driving cars and humans on the roads, the legal issue of who is responsible for a crash comes into question – should the passenger or the software be blamed and who pays for the damages? Just recently, Google’s self-driving car was the cause of an accident for the first time – all previous incidents occurred when a driver took over its automated system (Kantrowitz, 2016). According to a report by Google, the car “believed the bus would stop or slow down” but the driver did neither of these actions (which is perfectly acceptable) and therefore it made contact with the vehicle. In the future, new laws will have to be implemented to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers as well as eliminating any grey areas; a similar thing is occurring now with drones due to its increased use and popularity. To bring this back to my project, I’ll take a look into the legislation that is currently in place and what other laws they may have to take into account when autonomous cars are more wide-spread.
Another aspect of self-driving cars that needs to be addressed is the potential for cyber-terrorism. Anyone who has seen I, Robot may have a well-founded reason to be afraid of autonomous technology, but what happens when an autonomous vehicle is hacked not by an artificial intelligence, but by a terrorist? Cars could be be forced off the road, driven into crowds of people or made to crash into a building. Hackers have a knack for adapting to new technologies and those developing these vehicles must be aware of these possibilities while they design their cars.
Google has used a series of car models for its road-testing including the Toyota Prius and Audi TT, but now their fleet mainly consists of prototypes and modified Lexus SUVs. However, Google is not the only company looking into the self-driving market; Volvo has planned to release 100 autonomous cars by 2017 that will be used by actual customers in Sweden (ONE News, 2016). As part of my research on self-driving cars, I will look at our car culture and compare it to how it may look in the future. If no one is driving the car, high-powered engines become unnecessary for the everyday trip and driving itself becomes a hobby rather than an expectation. So then will certain brands still grant passengers a level of status? Will a drivers licence no longer be a rite of passage? Will there be groups opposed to this autonomous driving? It will be interesting to see how our culture changes through time towards this technology and whether it is possible that one day driving will be limited to sports racing.
– Kantrowitz, A. (2016), Watch This Sad Bus Driver Get Hit By A Driverless Car and Realize He Can Only Blame Technology, Buzzfeed. Accessed at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/watch-googles-self-driving-car-hit-a-bus#.hfGOxpQK3q
– ONE News (2016), ‘Eyes OFF the road’: Driverless car experiment to send a whole new message, TVNZ. Accessed at: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/eyes-off-road-driverless-car-experiment-send-whole-new-message