Autonomous Vehicles

In the old days, people used to wonder what the future would be like. It usually involved high-tech gadgets and flying cars. Sometimes people would talk about cars or vehicles that could drive themselves. I used to think that was crazy and would never come about. But, I was wrong. Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are real, and they are here today. In this article, we will examine the pros and cons.

The Good

In theory, it is pretty wonderful to think that you can get into a car, tell it where to go, and sit back and relax as the car cruises the streets and safely gets you to your destination. That perfect trip is becoming more and more of a reality every day. It used to be available in experimental cars only, but now BMW, Tesla, Audi, and many more are moving forward with models and plans for building these fantastic machines.

This is good. Why? Because competition between these companies will drive them (pun intended) to build better, more efficient cars of this type. As each car company creates new, innovative advances, the other companies will take notice. Also, certain standards could be created that help everyone. This happened with the OBD II codes back in 1996. Car manufacturers created a standard for certain codes that appear on OBD readers. This is a bonus for professional mechanics and shade tree mechanics alike. Who knows, there may be certain data or techniques that are shared by car makers.

The Bad

On March 18, 2018, Elaine Herzberg of Tempe, Arizona was killed by a self-driving car. It was the first death of a pedestrian by an autonomous vehicle. This extremely sad news made front page headlines and gave many self-driving car manufacturers pause. In fact, many makers of self-driving vehicles, both cars and trucks, took a step back.

Deaths are bound to happen. I don’t want to sound cold or callous. My heart goes out to the entire Herzberg family. But, unfortunately, every year thousands of pedestrians are involved in fatal accidents. According to Camila Domonoske in a February 2018 report for National Public Radio, the numbers are quite high. She quotes numbers from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) as 5,984 pedestrian deaths in 2017.

So who is to blame for deaths caused by autonomous vehicles? That is a subject that is up for a great amount of debate. In fact, the GHSA has a full report available on their website (www.ghsa.org) about this very topic. Many studies have been done, and the debate rages on.

Electric vs. Gasoline

Yes, not every self-driving car is going to be electric. This may surprise some people. While most car makers are opting for electric self-driving cars that run on batteries, but not all of them.

Around December of 2017, Ford stated that they prefer gasoline-powered autonomous vehicles. They based their decision on profitability. They believe, in the long run, electric cars will be more expensive to operate and maintain. So, perhaps not every self-driving car will be electric. Of course, time will tell.

Conclusion

There are many good, bad, and interesting topics for conversations about self-driving vehicles. I will circle back to this topic in future articles. One thing is for sure. The future is here.

Written by Gary Pradel