Americans have traditionally been the pioneers of futuristic development. No wonder, the idea of the driverless car originated here. But when an automated Tesla car crashed last year, resulting in the owner’s death, it raised many eyebrows. Elon Musk remarked on this accident that people are killed because negative writing by journalists dissuades them from using automated vehicles.
Do we really want automated vehicles on our roads?
A survey by Pew Research Center found that 87 percent Americans always want a person behind the wheel, 39 percent never want to ride in driverless cars and 30 percent think roads would actually become unsafe with self-driving cars. (These numbers were probably higher if they saw the movie Fast and Furious 8 since that movie had an awesome high tech carjacking scene.
But if these automated cars drive like Bumblebee does in Transformers we should be good to go!
However, there are many self-driving enthusiasts out there who believe the change is inevitable. They imagine a world where the streets are safe because of reduced accidents and zero human error.
Companies like Tesla, Alphabet, and General Motors are investing billions in funding research and trials to ensure that automated vehicles become a part of our future. Musk is one of the foremost champions of driverless car technology. He envisions a time when even old and infirm can travel independently, and he looks forward to the era when humans can embrace their full potential on the roads.
Can people trust automated car companies?
The automotive world shook after the Volkswagen emission scam emerged. Even companies like Toyota and General Motors (this is the company that basically stole $50 billion from the taxpayer and still owes us $16 billion) had hidden things from consumers regarding safety defects. These incidents have left a sense of mistrust in the general public.
However, experts claim that people will come around. After the initial mistrust and naysaying, people always embrace change. However, people might need a little more time with the self-driving technology because the trust is still weak and new shocks involving data breach and software hacks have occurred.
Furthermore, the automated car precision is not good enough to work on roads with low lying tree branches, bridges, as well as roads with difficult to see lane markings.
What about the law?
Technology and auto lobbyists have been busy engaging with the members of Congress. Bipartisan bills have been proposed, which will make it easier for automated cars onto the streets. The safety exemptions, which involve the performance of steering wheels and other important parts such as brakes and airbags, are just some of the concerns.
A bill was recently passed which lets manufacturers of automated vehicles sell 25,000 vehicles a year without meeting safety guidelines. And the numbers increase to 100,000 vehicles annually after the first three years.
However, Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill which has limited the cars to 80,000 and made a safety evaluation mandatory before relaxing safety exemptions.
Another issue is the underfunding of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The department will have to write new rules for these automated cars while overseeing the industry as a whole even as it struggles for more resources since America is now over $20 trillion in debt. The government has proposed a cut of 7.5 percent or $24 million in funding to this department in fiscal 2018 because America needs to get its spending under control.
An automated vehicle future does offer major benefits; the primary being an efficient utilization of time. People that live far away from their work would not be punished as much since they could use that time now to sleep or even get some work done before they arrive at their desks.
Furthermore, traffic algorithms will be easier to predict when all cars on the road are automated. Elon Musk, too, has a point when he claims that streets would be safer with some improvisations and tweaking of existing safety measures.