Dispelling some of the myths around autonomous driving.
Although many aspects of both the technology and legalities remain to be resolved, many of the myths circulating about autonomous vehicles are just that – myths.
15 June, 2022
Some information is accurate and from credentialed sources while others are pure flights of fantasy
As with most things, information about autonomous vehicles – both real and imagined – abounds. Some information is accurate and from credentialed sources while other morsels are based around a grain of truth while others still are pure flights of fantasy.
Certainly many aspects of what autonomous driving on a large scale will look like are still being worked out, with technical and legal considerations still requiring a great deal of work. But many of the ‘popular’ myths can be safely put to rest for those interested in what mobility will look like in the not so distant future.
Self-driving cars will make driving less fun.
This myth is the real kicker and the source of anxiety to car lovers. Some fear their car will prevent them from driving across the country and enjoying the pleasure of feeling their foot on the pedal and their hands on the steering wheel. But the opposite is true – self-driving cars will not end the fun we have behind the wheel and no manufacturer will prevent its customers from driving their own cars if they wish to do so. In the future, vehicle owners will still have the choice of driving the car themselves or handing over control to the car during unpleasant situations such as stop-and-go traffic on the highway.
Once the software is developed and available, autonomous cars will be able to drive anywhere.
Getting self-driving cars on the road will require a fully reliable and all-around safe software not only for the car, but for the entire environment. This will change the way our cities look incrementally: To this end, infrastructure must be expanded to include intelligent traffic lights and road sensors. Cities will become more digital, providing a suitable ecosystem for an increasing number of automated cars. This will make cities safer and more relaxed, where, ideally, traffic will be able to flow without disruptions or congestion.
Self-driving cars are a hacking liability.
Not true. Self-driving cars will be no more vulnerable than cars driven by hand to being 'hacked'. That being said, the impact of a hacker attack on a self-driving car’s safety-related systems can be more serious. For this reason, manufacturers are constantly developing protective measures against cyberattacks and improving the protective mechanisms, both inside the vehicle and outside in the back end. As cars become increasingly networked with their environment, the effort required to ensure reliable and always up-to-date cyber security increases too.
Self-driving cars will be no more vulnerable than cars driven by hand to being 'hacked'
In the longer term, prices will fall as the technology becomes more widely adopted
As a technology, self-driving cars will be so expensive that few people will be able to afford it.
There’s no doubting that the development of autonomous cars is an investment-heavy undertaking and in the medium term, costs will be a factor. But as is the case with all new technologies, in the longer term, prices will fall as the technology becomes more widely adopted.
In addition, the predicted increase in road safety will significantly reduce the damage a self-driving car suffers, which in turn will likely further lower repair and insurance costs. Another important factor is the expected change in mobility use, where in metropolitan areas, some autonomous vehicles will belong to mobility providers instead of to individuals. Or they will be shared by multiple people through sharing concepts. This, too, increases usage efficiency and will have a positive impact on reducing costs.
Self-driving cars will require fewer parking spaces.
No, self-driving cars won’t magically require less parking space, but they will use them much more efficiently than motorists with vehicles do now. Being able to park closer to the car next door (no need to open doors for the driver to get out) will mean that parking is far more efficient. Motorists will leave their vehicle at the parking station and go about their business while the car goes to park itself. Additionally, vehicle density could drop in metropolitan areas if an increasing proportion of cars are used jointly through sharing models.
In extreme cases, autonomous vehicles will have to make life-and-death decisions.
One of the many benefits of autonomous driving will be the safety aspect, but people remain concerned about an autonomous vehicle being called upon to make life and death decisions on the roads.
Autonomous driving is not the first time this question has arisen and has been a matter of discussion in ethics for decades. It is perhaps best illustrated in the ‘trolley problem’ – a thought experiment that asks us to imagine a situation in which one individual could divert a runaway trolley [train carriage] onto a side track where one person lies motionless, thereby saving the lives of five people tied up on the original track. Would this be a criminal act? Should the person not act at all? Or did the individual deliberate correctly and act to mitigate the greatest possible harm?
With autonomous driving, this discussion has witnessed a resurgence – but in the study, experts say the central point of the debate is that a self-driving car would not make its own decision in a hazardous situation, but instead only reflect the software choices its creators endowed it with. It can and will only assume the ethical decisions and values of the people who design it – and apply them without its own interpretation.
a self-driving car would not make its own decision in a hazardous situation, but instead only reflect the software choices its creators endowed it with
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