10 Things Self-Driving Cars Can Bring to Us: Fictional Pipe Dream or Unavoidable Reality?

June 29, 2023

Self-driving cars have been making headlines for the last couple of years, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before some form of self-driving AI is in all new vehicles. According to the vehicle industry, it’s inevitable that someday we won’t be driving our own cars, we’ll simply be passengers relaxing as we travel to and between our destinations.

It sounds nice, but is it realistic? From the initial announcement of the technology to the shaky implementation, not much seems to have changed in recent years. In fact, you might even argue that things have been steadily going downhill due to nobody being able to pull it off.

Back in February, it was reported that Elon Musk was being sued by Tesla shareholders for overstating Tesla’s autopilot and self-driving technology. This comes after a series of Tesla vehicle autopilot accidents, where there have been 17 fatalities and 736 crashes, and that’s only since 2019.

And then in April there was an additional report that dash cam footage from San Francisco shows driverless cars causing delays and danger on the roads. This seems to be a direct contradiction to the claims that autonomous vehicles will improve road safety and efficiency.

Side view of Caucasian corporate director sleeping using self driving mode in autonomous car vehicle, smart casual woman in sleep mask resting during hands free automobile wheeling with autopilot

Negative Aspects of Self-Driving Cars

  1. Safety and liability – While self-driving car technology is often touted as being safe, we’ve seen many cases where the technology simply falls short. Accidents occur due to system errors or failures, which complicates liability when there is no singular entity to put the responsibility on.
  2. Job Displacement – There are many people who make a living driving vehicles. Many of these workers are in the public transportation sector, and there is a very real risk that jobs will be lost as autonomous cars take over. While this is inevitable in any sector that can utilize AI machine learning, there seems to be a very strong push for it in the automotive business.
  3. Ethical Decisions – In many car accidents, ethical decisions come into play. You swerve to avoid one thing and you hit something else, or maybe the driver made a poor decision while driving which ended badly. Driving systems can be programmed to make split decisions based on a large number of algorithmic factors, but at the end of the day how do you clarify what the “correct” decision is when someone or something involved isn’t better than the alternative?
  4. Data Privacy and Security – Self-driving cars collect an obscene amount of visual, audio, and locational data in order to be efficient and work correctly. This data could potentially link people to locations, and if any of it was accessed by unauthorized users it could be sold or used in cyber-attacks against individuals or businesses, or even against the network that many self-driving cars run on.
  5. Cost and Accessibility – There’s a reason that the current automotive market isn’t overloaded with self-driving vehicles right now, and it’s only partly due to the technology. These cars are much more expensive when compared to traditional vehicles, which may put the majority of them out of the reach of lower-income individuals. Even if there is a mandate that all new vehicles be built with the new AI features (like how they did with backup cameras), there’s no way to effectively retrofit older vehicles and many people may opt to purchase older vehicles to save money.

But is it all bad? Certainly it can’t be, when it is viewed in a practical sense. The technology is still new when compared to the automotive industry as a whole, so certainly there will be growing pains. While it’s a way off at this moment, the potential improvements are hard to ignore.

The Hope for Autonomous Vehicles

  1. Improved road safety – If the technology behind self-driving vehicles can be improved to the point that they are trying to get to, it could improve your driving experience tremendously. Human error is said to be the leading cause of driving accidents, and self-driving cars have the potential to lower that number IF they can get past the current software limitations.
  2. Increased Mobility and Accessibility – While there is an argument to be made that low-income individuals won’t be able to afford self-driving vehicles as easily as others, there are still a number of public transportation systems that would benefit. Individuals who can longer drive could potentially have access to a much better system of getting around that they didn’t have before.
  3. Efficient Traffic Management – If the network between driverless cars was able to advance and communication systems could be utilized between vehicles, traffic could become a thing of the past as cars regulated themselves to account for speed and other vehicles. While this one seems the most far off in terms of practical application, it’s still a very real possibility.
  4. Vehicle to Vehicle and Vehicle to Infrastructure Data Exchanges – In order for self-driving cars to work and be efficient, there would need to be a very powerful communication network in place to keep everything talking together, and it would need to do it in real time in order to avoid accidents and improve traffic conditions. We already have some of the groundwork for this type of network set up, but it isn’t unified. Our phones connect to our cars with Bluetooth, allowing for radio use, remote start, alarms, and more. You can use network apps to hire taxis and Uber drivers, all within minutes. Taking that technology and unifying it into a broader connection network could drastically change how things work.
  5. Productivity and Convenience – Probably the biggest selling point would be for how much time a person could save if they didn’t have to drive themself anywhere. Imagine commuting an hour to work or home, but instead of fighting to stay awake and drive safely, you could catch up on a video call, read a book, or even just sit back and unwind.

Focusing on the Future

As manufacturers and engineers continue to iron out issues and improve how things work, we will definitely see more and more daily tasks to be automated, thus efficiency of our lives to improve, as washers, floor cleaning robots are already here, more is to be expected for improving the quality of our lives.

There’s no doubt that the technology is progressing towards a future where a lot of our everyday things will be managed for us. It’s hard to say how soon it will be here, but it’s probably safe to say that with the current technological hurdles that need to be overcome, there is still a decent amount of time before it comes an everyday reality.