Pros & More Pros of Self-Driving Cars

cool-car-image

The last time mankind did something indisputably significant was sending the first signal from UCLA to Stanford via ARPANET (the original Internet). That was in 1989; 2 years before I was born. Safe to say I missed that window and I came after dial-up too. I got my first hand-me-down personal computer at age 16 in 2007 and I remember fighting with AT&T over billing errors for my non-English speaking parents.

The only search engine I had to use was Google. My husband who is 3.5 years older than me tells fables of him having to AltaVista before Google blew everyone’s bums out of the water…

(Remember Ask Jeeves? It was terrible.)

Continuing off from the last post I mentioned my excitement towards the very palpable possibility of self-driving cars. This is happening in our lifetime guys.

Yays, that’s pretty epic.

The first driverless car concept was simply a theorized possibility in the 1930s. The modern-day automobile as we know it today didn’t take shape until the mid-1920s. Before the 1920s, it was more like buggies that closer resembled wagons than modern cars of today.

1910s car

In the 1930s, self-driving cars were considered a genre of science fiction. Like Star Trek! But in the 1980s, Carnegie created the first driverless car (and bus) on a test course.

Anyway, we are about 40 years “late” to the 1930s estimate that self-driving cars would be everywhere by the 1980s. I guess we’re supposed to be working on brain rays by now?

I sort of became addicted to this topic and binge read quite a bit of research on it. It’s clear to me that everyone is excited as I am.

Here are some of the strongly probable PROs and more PROs of our future with autonomous vehicles:

Safety

Currently estimated, human error accounts for about 80% to 94% of all traffic accidents. That’s pretty statistically drastic!

Computers do not have human error, which is sweet because human makes a lot of it! Machines are better at human decision making. We weren’t biologically programmed to handle 65 miles per hour of data processing or hold onto that attention 100% of the time.

Everybody has a blind spot in each eye where your eye stem connects to and your brain fills in that blind spot like nothing happened. The mind is a super powerful thing…at hiding and illusions.

About 37,000 Americans die every year in car crashes. That’s more than 100 per day! –Accidental FIRE

Let’s say the mechanics behind self-driving cars do mess up occasionally in heavy weather or glitch. The lasers, sensors, GPS or trackers give in during hail and leads the unfortunate riders down a very wrong path. Statistically, malfunctions like that would probably still be much smaller in number than the guaranteed 100 deaths per day caused by being behind the wheel as humans.

Traffic accidents in the U.S. cost $871 billion each year. Technology can always be improved, whereas, no offense to humans but we’re prettyyy slow to change.

The psychological fear behind letting a robot control your life and fate is probably a bigger safety concern for most Americans than cold statistics. Swedish carmaker, Volvo, has promised that their version of autonomous Volvos will be “death-proof.” That’s a big promise to make but Volvos are famous for the safety so we’ll see about “death-proof.”

Related: 4 Main Benefits Of Car-Free Living

Cost

OK, so autonomous cars work using extra fancy existing technology such as a souped-up GPS, 360 camera, lasers, sensors and an intricate secretive set of company formula for the software of the autonomous car.

The extra GPS system cost $100-$6,000. The high tech lasers and sensors would add on another couple of thousand on the high range. The priciest of all physical equipment would be the spinning camera which would cost around $8,000. If the economy of scale is applicable (which I think it will be), I don’t think cost will be an issue. An economy of scale means cost savings in production can be made when there are high production levels.

I can think of more than a few people willing to pay for the self-driving feature just to show it off on Facebook for them golden Likes. The technology should be affordable by 2023 if everything goes to plan.

I don’t think cost will be an issue. At least not for those willing to pay the price. The car companies heavily vested in the autonomous game like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have an edge on the competition simply because their car clientele is more affluent across the board.

Fully autonomous cars would fetch $10,000+ more than traditional cars’ sticker price. Considering the service that it provides, that’s not expensive at all.

There are different levels of cost going along with differences in software. The Tesla Model S is a semi-autonomous vehicle that lands itself in the category of “level 2 autonomy.” Level 4 autonomous cars and car sharing programs will be on the road by 2030. These “level 4” cars will be able to change lanes, regulate speeds, enter/exit highways and take control of mapping the course while you sit back and do whatever you want!

The autonomy game isn’t perfected until we reach level 5. Level 5 is a system that can drive anywhere a human driver could.

Labor

Speaking of labor, a lot of hardworking people (be they taxi, truck, or delivery drivers etc.) will play the high risk of losing their jobs when autonomous vehicles roll out into the mainstream.

Whenever there is innovation, there are “casualties.” 100 years ago, the invention of tractors made lots of farmhands lose their jobs. Back in the 1890s, the majority of Americans owned small time family farms. Now less than 2% of the American population are classified as farmers. We can’t exactly tell everyone to ban tractors and go back to farming.

Blacksmiths, farmers, and milkmen were all displaced at one point during the rapid development of America’s past. But other jobs can be created and new jobs can be made to serve and expedite the human progress.

The transition would be hasty for many. Autonomous vehicles is not a possibility but a simple matter of when, so make a tangible plan B now for those in harm’s way!

On the flipside, this technology could greatly boost the bottom line of companies in the sectors of transportation. Currently, roughly ⅓ of the budget of transportation goes to paying human drivers. Better bottom line, higher profits, more buyer confidence, stocks go up!

The math behind autonomous cars is a no-brainer for big companies like Wal-Mart and Uber/Lyft. Human labor is extremely expensive.

Self-driving vehicles could free up law enforcement. They can also provide relief efforts during natural disasters in areas too dangerous for humans to attempt!

Conservation

Financially, the introduction of autonomous vehicles could possibly return $600 billion dollars back to the economy from the amount of labor, medical, and resources saved. The environmental impact is another factor that discerning consumers should consider.

Perhaps there will be a lot more pollution to produce new autonomous cars to replace the old standard?

I asked my husband if one could just attach a super advance GPS, fancy 360-degree camera, lasers, sensors, and software etc…would you be able to soup up and “recycle” a traditional car and turn it autonomous to save a few thousand bucks. Because can you imagine the junkyards of non-autonomous cars that would pile up?

But I realized that was a dumb question before he even replied. This is a metal killer death machine. Any ‘self-souping’ would probably be highly illegal.

It could cost a lot of resources to make self-driving cars but robots cars are able to drive closer together on the road and they drive more efficiently with each other. This can reduce traffic and pollution. We could experience less congestion and move faster.

So…how does car-free living tie into this?

I’m throwing out something crazy to challenge our ownership culture…if they are self-driving, would we really need to own one?

Can’t we just call one up and it’ll pick us up? Wouldn’t that be much more cost-effective and resource saving? We use the Car2Go service once in a while and I love picking up a Car2Go and parking it anywhere when I’m done with my errands. The only flaw is always a chance where we have to walk to a Car2Go but the closest one is 10 blocks away. With driverless cars, I’m hoping a Car2Go would drive to me as directed.

I don’t want to own a car. Not even an autonomous one. But an autonomous car share program knocks out ALL of my cost, driving, parking anxiety, environmental problems associated with car-ownership. The principle of a large, empty, fits 4 people, metal box sitting idle in the garage taking up space 85% of the time still and always will sound silly to me.

Good news is, most likely, self-driving car technology will be sold to ride-sharing programs first before becoming available to the public. For autonomous cars to hit dealerships, we have a much longer wait, I feel.

This technology only works out well in large, well mapped, robust and well-developed areas. This could be a temporary weakness of autonomous vehicles in that it helps only a certain portion of the population directly – a lot more than others. For people living car-free in large cities that are well mapped (San Francisco for example), car sharing sounds like a home run as a personal yet shareable, rental car.

Unanswered Questions

Take a stab at any & reply in the comments!

1. Can you hack these cars and assign them as assassins? Or will robots be harvesting our organs by the end of the century?

2. If it is driverless, why does it have to resemble a car? Couldn’t it be a bedroom? Or a living room? (I really hope one could put a bed in there. It would be pretty cool to ride around in a spare bedroom. And personally, I don’t care if you make it car shaped or hamburger shaped as long as there are naps to be had.)

3. What happens to car insurance? And DMVs? (Update: dump those auto insurance stocks?!)

4. Can an autonomous car get a virus? Can someone hack a car as easily as hacking into a toaster oven over WiFi?

5. What will happen to public transportation? Will car sharing become more popular?

6. Who will be responsible if a self-driving car gets into a fatal accident with another car or pedestrian that it failed to register?

7. Can self-driving cars give jack*** drivers the middle finger for me? This is important to my consumerist side.



24 thoughts on “Pros & More Pros of Self-Driving Cars”

  • I’m also really excited about driverless cars. Think about the earth! We can get rid of all those asphalt parking lots spread all over the South! And probably lower the collective temps in that region by a few degrees. Yes, I think “owning” your own car will be ridiculous, as you can just grab a car from the always-available car services. I love your idea about changing car shapes! They could totally look like bedrooms, or sofas, or maybe even gyms–we could have stationary bikes in the back and we could get in a workout while commuting to work. And oh, commuting…. the shapes of our cities could possibly totally change with driverless cars, as we won’t have to put the cars anywhere, so we won’t have those crazy windy suburbs. It’s really fun and exciting to think about this stuff. Also, you were born in the 90s. Dude. I am old.
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    • Ha! I’m watching a Youtuber who has 6 million followers and the brilliant bastard is 22 years old!! 1996!! I FEEL OLD. This stinks!!

      (I would love to be able to rent a bedroom or gym centric car…that would be cool. And yes, parking lots stink!

  • I love this topic. I’m super fascinated by electric vehicles and how they’ll shape up over the next 10-15 years. It’ll be interesting to see how our infrastructure will grow and adapt to accommodate that, and what it means for our old gas guzzlers. How long before those are obsolete?

    How long before car ownership is obsolete? That seems like a bigger challenge. People will still want a way to get where they want to go, EXACTLY when they want to go – not wait for a few minutes. Particularly in rural communities I think it’s a long tail on that one.

    1. Can you hack these cars and assign them as assassins? Or will robots be harvesting our organs by the end of the century?

    You say this in jest (maybe?! haha) but to be honest hacking would be a huge concern many people have. How are Teslas dealing with it now??

    2. If it is driverless, why does it have to resemble a car? Couldn’t it be a bedroom? Or a living room? (I really hope one could put a bed in there. It would be pretty cool to ride around in a spare bedroom. And personally, I don’t care if you make it car shaped or hamburger shaped as long as there are naps to be had.)

    An interesting idea. The inside probably doesn’t. The outside likely would for a variety of reasons. First, until they’re ubiquitous, it’s a bit odd and distracting to see a bedroom rolling down the highway. Being shaped like a car will help the transition period, and in the future being at least the basic dimensions of a typical car will help with parking lots and such; of course, smaller vehicles would help even more, and if everything is autonomous then parking would be easy.

    I wonder if part of it would be aerodynamics as well to maximize efficiency. That would likely limit the size and shape of them.

    3. What happens to car insurance? And DMVs?

    Pay as you go insurance is already a thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it converted for the future. However, the biggest question I have is liability. Who’s liable for an accident? Who must carry that insurance? If my self-driving car, in a world of totally self-driving cars, gets in an accident, is it my fault? Am I held liable? Is it the fault of the software company that built the mechanisms? The hardware? The car manufacturer itself?

    There will need to be a lot of legal conversations that happen – and they’re already starting.

    4. Can an autonomous car get a virus? Can someone hack a car as easily as hacking into a toaster oven over WiFi?

    Yep probably. Maybe not as easy as toaster hacking but I’m sure they can be hacked. That security will be a big thing to keep on top of.

    5. What will happen to public transportation? Will car sharing become more popular?

    Hope so. Public transportation will still probably be a thing, just for a lower cost, same as it is today. Honestly I’d love to see public transportation take over everything and self-driving cars be more of a luxury, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal here.

    6. Who will be responsible if a self-driving car gets into a fatal accident with another car or pedestrian that it failed to register?

    Yep same as above…lots of legal challenges to address.

    7. Can self-driving cars give jack*** drivers the middle finger for me?

    I’d hope so. I’ve always wanted a scrolling marquee on the top of my car that wrote mirrored in the front and regular in the back so that you could read it even if you were in front of me. Voice-controlled, of course.
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    • Omg Dave that was a post and a half itself. Rofl your answer for #7 totally cracks me up. I got the line from a car commercial (Dodge??!) featuring a voiceover from Dexter. I wonder if cars were designed to be the most efficient in terms of shape but then again…trucks and RVs? We have RVs and buses already, we can put a restaurant! xD I thought it was hilarious as an argument against self-driving cars.

  • I can’t wait for self-driving cars! People are sucky things at times. Even the nicest person is a complete and total a-hole behind the wheel.

    The security of it all will be so much more important than any other device we own. I don’t think most car companies are taking that seriously. We don’t have self-driving cars but you hear a news report once a month about white-hat-hackers being able to remotely access a car and shut it down or worse things.

    Put me down as cautiously optimistic.

    As far as DMVs. You will still need to register a vehicle, get a gov. issue ID amoung other things.
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  • Great post Lily! Awesome rundown of a fascinating topic. To me, the safety factor is the biggest as you highlighted my comment from your previous post. Just to hammer home to folks

    Official death toll of US Forces in THREE YEARS of the Korean War – 33,686
    Number of deaths last year from car crashes – over 40,000!

    Heck, in TEN years of the Vietnam war our combat deaths were 47,500. In one year of carnage on our roads we’re getting close to that.

    It’s beyond sad, and it still confounds me that saving countless lives is not the #1 reason we should want driverless cars. Human make mistakes easily and will continue killing each other on the roads, Computers – once the technology is perfected – won’t!

    I’m passionate about this issue as I’ve had friends and an employee of mine killed in crashes. They were all young. We can stop this needless death in the future.

    • That’s so sad! I wondered how you had these stats on hand. For people who don’t trust computers as drivers, I feel like we overestimate our driving abilities as humans…

  • Great analysis! I can’t wait for self-driving cars to get more popular. I hope it won’t be more expensive than the standard cars. I’m terrified of driving long distance, so a self-driving car would be a savior.

    I heard they are testing the lanes for driverless cars in some states. There’re some issues with the law and insurance policy and such. But they should be issues for us to work out, not hindrances to technological advancement. 😀
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  • Should we divest from all the auto insurance companies?! This is actually a pretty interesting question. What happens to GEICO when it happens? I guess they could insure against bugs in code or something? Or deaths caused by bugs in code?

    I’d like to ride in anything that will allow me to take a nap :P. Yes!

    I’m waiting for Elon Musk to announce driverless cars completely. 😀
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  • Very interesting topic. I guess we need to sell those insurance company stocks while we can. Self driving car will cause huge shift in behavior.
    I just saw a clip that shows a self driving truck. It drove from CA to Florida. That’s awesome. A lot of drivers will need to find a different job.

    Every living driver behind the wheel cost the American health care system $9.2 million in medical cost.
    I don’t see how this can be accurate. Seems wildly exaggerated. Is this really true?
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    • Oh yeah, what’s insurance going to do!!

      I got that number from a Business Insider video I think (but I think they worded it weird too) I should swap it because they didn’t cite it. I’ll do this — “traffic accidents in the U.S. cost $871 billion a year, federal study finds” (holy cow)

  • I’ve always been fascinated by this topic! Most times, I have driving (ie commuting/sitting in traffic) but sometimes I absolutely love it like when going on trips.

    However, regardless of that I think that self driving cars are a much better alternative to what we currently have. There may be doubts and many questions unanswered, but the overall benefit will surely outweigh the costs.

    One other thing to consider, would you even need to own a car? One would think services like uber/Lyft would only get cheaper (since paying drivers is their biggest cost!) meaning unless you absolutely needed one for long commutes it may be more cost effective to not own one!

    • When there are driverless cars, I see absolutely no reason for us to own one and I hopeeee I’m not alone. It’s still going to be fairly expensive owning!

  • What’s sad is, if we gave everyone a self driving car, traffic would almost disappear. Computers know exactly when to accelerate, and when to stop. They are mind readers; they know what their fellow self driving cars are going to do and avoid collisions. They don’t get distracted. They drive at safe speeds and don’t cut turns too wide or miss them. But this isn’t possible unless, as I said, we give everyone an SD car.

  • Solid research and write-up on self-driving cars. I’ve researched the topic for over five years. The pros outweigh the cons… over 1 million lives a year will be saved with full automation (the World Health Organization reported 1.24 million deaths related to vehicles in 2010). You mentioned that new jobs will replace the lost driving jobs… but not quickly enough. There are over 3 million truck drives in the U.S. The rate of automation is alarming and leading to a new economic paradigm… https://frugalfortunes.com/universal-basic-income/
    Frugal Fortunes recently posted…Self-Driving Cars: Top 25 Pros and Cons to Your Driverless Future

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