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Are Self-driving Cars A Good Idea?

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1.If This Were The Real World
Photo credit: conundrum525 / Flickr

From the science fiction stories like “Methuselah’s Children” and movies like “I, Robot” and “Minority Report”, self-driving cars have long been dreamed of. Imagine being able to get in your car, stating your destination, and sitting back to read, do work or even sleep while your vehicle transports you from point A to point B of its own volition. While it sounds like a great concept, are self-driving cars really a good idea?

If This Were The Real World…

… self driving cars would be a very good idea. Not only would traffic accidents be virtually eliminated, but fuel costs would be reduced. Self-driving cars using vehicle-to-vehicle technology as well as network capabilities would be able to anticipate and correct for traffic conditions, would be able to stop before an accident took place and, since the vehicle is under total computer control, would be optimized for maximum efficiency. Even people with physical impairments, vision problems and medical conditions could get in a car, and be taken wherever they wanted without endangering other people on the road.

An added benefit is the fact that criminals would be significantly easier to catch. The self-driving car would essentially spell the end of the high speed car chase because, with one command to the car, the police could literally have the criminal brought to the police station for them. The only way a criminal could run from authority would be on foot.

But This Is The Real World

Granted, all that sounds nice. And, for what it is, it is nice. Unfortunately, with all the technology involved in a self-driving car, not only is it possible to know exactly who is going where at any given moment, but the destination would be able to be overridden, which means the occupant of a car could literally be forced to go where someone else wanted. While this could be a good thing to subdue and capture criminals, it could also be a way to facilitate kidnappings and other nefarious acts.

Also, since the vehicle is totally under computer control, if something happens to the system inside the car or to the overall traffic network beyond computer control, the hazards to people would be incalculable. One computer failure could lead to a traffic disaster of epic proportions involving not just a few cars but conceivably involving every self-driving car on the road. This could result in thousands of deaths in a matter of seconds.

So, Are They A Good Idea?

Regardless of the scenario, self-driving cars are still many years, perhaps even decades away from becoming a reality. And, in order for them to be truly effective, everyone would have to have one. While they sound great in theory, especially when you consider the fact that traffic fatalities could be virtually eliminated, in reality, there are far too many hurdles to overcome. Not only are there technological and economic hurdles to overcome, but moral hurdles as well. Can self-driving cars become a reality? Yes. Should they become a reality? Probably not.

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