Self-Driving Cars: Yea, Nay, or May(be)
Flying cars may still be confined to re-runs of the "Jetsons," but as technology continues to change the face of how we live, one area of advancement that continues to dazzle those of us interested in the intersect of technology and transportation is the driverless car--AKA, self-driving cars. Since Google first announced in 2009 that it was developing technology to allow for robotic vehicular automation, speculation, excitement, and certainly a little old fashioned capitalism has accellerated the necessary technology to remove most--if not all--human interaction from behind the wheel of a car. We are now at the point where not just Google, but loads of other companies, including Tesla, Uber, Volvo, and Ford, are getting behind the cause of driverless cars.
The Case for Driverless Cars
As many driverless car advocates and manufacturers point out, a world where people are passive passengers in their own vehicles could have extreme outcomes for personal safety, local, state, national and global economies, and even the way cities are built and rebuilt. There's also a strong case to be made that driverless cars will help reduce congestion, improve traffic flow by removing human error and influence, and lead to a more adventurous citizenry. A world of driverless cars also opens up job and social opportunities for people with disabilities who can't drive themselves.
But of course, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the idea of leaving the fate and future of American transportation in the hands of software and robots.
Skepticism for Driverless Cars
Skeptics have voiced a lot of important concerns about self-driving cars, chief among them cost and implementation, along with the anxiety that can come with the idea of surrendering control behind the wheel. To be sure, these are valid concerns, and it will be important, as the technology for driverless cars continues to improve, to monitor how these advances are adapting to how humans travel and interact with roads in real time.
As other countries begin to publicly test driverless cars, we'll have the opportunity to see how successful (or not) their efforts are, and monitor progress from a safe distance.
Pittsburgh To Begin Testing Driverless Cars
On our home turf, all eyes will be on the city of Pittsburgh, "ground zero" for driverless cars in America. Uber has just begun using a small fleet of driverless cars to shuttle users of its app around town, where many of the project's engineers are based (Pittsburgh is home to Carnegie Mellon University, one of the top engineering schools in the world). While the cars will still have an Uber rep behind the wheel, Uber eventually intends to ween the fleet off of humans entirely, and the drivers will only commandeer the wheel in extreme situations.
So what say you, readers? How do you feel about living in a country where cars drive themselves? Is this an exciting advancement that you're looking forward to participating in, or do you side with the skeptics? Sound off in the comments!