Science might have failed us thus far at delivering the promised flying cars of the future, but thanks to Google, driverless cars are very much a reality. While the technology giant might have gotten the ball rolling the Google designers are by no means the only ones probing this lucrative market. Autonomous cars are in the pipeline from Toyota, Audio, Nissan and others as well.
Trust Us… We’re Google
According to Google and other companies that are pioneering the technology, self-driving vehicles will be completely reliable and totally safe, which is of course something that you would expect them to say. Ask anyone who has been promised that a latest gadget or piece of equipment is completely fail-safe how that worked out for them, and you will realize that there is always the potential for disaster. By placing the car in control, you might be able to eliminate human errors, but that doesn’t make it completely safe.
Effects on the Industry
Let’s for a moment forget about the actual safety aspects of the car and assume that the manufacturers will be able to make the vehicles 100% safe. Should driverless car ever replace all other vehicles on the road, it will have far reaching repercussions for all the industries that have sprung up around that fact that driving a car is inherently a risky endeavor. Auto insurers will probably be hit the hardest — with no accidents there will be no premiums to collect.
The design of these new cars will also impact long established industries and services such as body shops. If the cars are virtually uncrashable, what need would there be for body repairs? In an effort to drive down prices the cars will more than likely be built less sturdy as all that steel probably won’t be needed any more which will influence supply and demand.
The government will find itself losing out on all the money paid from traffic fines as all the cars would be obeying traffic laws. Anyone dreaming of a lucrative career in traffic law enforcement will probably also have to look elsewhere for employment if self-driving cars are incapable of making mistakes. Now, not having to worry about paying traffic fines might sound great if you are regularly on the receiving end of them, but the government is going to have to make up for the lack of revenue elsewhere. This means that they might have to increase taxes or implement other measures that could end up penalizing everyone.
When it comes to road infrastructure, more efficient self-driving cars will probably have no need for traffic lights, and the same goes for current headaches such as road widening. You might also want to spare a thought for anyone making a living from driving other people around. What use would there be to pay taxi drivers when you can simply get in your car and let it take you where you want to be? And that without having to worry about a meter that is running or the driver taking the “scenic route” to jack up the price…
In The Wrong Hands
Finally there is the risk of what driverless cars can be used for when in the hands of terrorists. Cars are already used as makeshift bombs by fanatics, so what is to prevent them from turning a self-driving car into a bomb and sending it to the destination of their choosing without any risks to themselves? This might sound like scaremonger, but as demonstrated by the events of September 11, even secure systems can be used to do great harm by individuals that are determined enough.
A Whole New Future
All of this paints a pretty bleak picture of driverless cars, but this doesn’t mean that the technology should be shunned. In fact, there are enough advantages to self-driving vehicles that it would be foolish to not embrace the inevitable takeover. People with disabilities would be able to make journeys that would otherwise have been difficult if not outright impossible while the loss of life due to road related accidents will decline dramatically.
For people that spend large portions of their day stuck in rush hour traffic or having to perform long commutes by car, a self driving car will also provide them with an opportunity to be more productive. Freed from having to concentrate on their surroundings at all times these people can catch up on leisure time or even get started on work long before they even reach the office.
Only time will tell whether self-driving cars will be as great a boon as the manufacturers believe them to be, but one thing is for sure, there is no getting away from the inevitable change. Hopefully once the technology for self-driving cars have been perfected the work on those flying cars that we have been promised can get started!