Engadget recently reported that Google self-driving cars get in 27 percent fewer accidents than human drivers. The Google test fleet have been driving on roads in California and other select areas to gather data and prepare for their eventual deployment across major cities worldwide.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) January 10, 2016
The main reason for the safety is that the car itself cannot make an error. The only thing that can go wrong is if something happens to which the car can poorly adapt to, like another car striking it. Moreover, the party at fault in accidents are more likely to be the other cars, as Google cars have been accused, if anything, of being too safe.
There are several reasons this is good news and also several reasons to celebrate, as humans can know that eventually we can have universal and safe transport, cutting out the human error of human drivers. If all cars were self-driving, they could all be programmed to be aware of the other, and there would, in theory, be no accidents as the whole system could just stop if necessary.
The advantages go beyond safety. The environment will also benefit as cars will carry more than one person along a route and will use less fuel as the style of driving will be optimized, plus self driving cars are all likely to be electric. Congestion and parking will also be greatly relieved as cars would operate along the bike rental scheme currently operating in London. The so-called “Boris Bikes” are a program that continues to innovate.
Great news – laserlight is going to be fitted on all 11,500 Boris bikes https://t.co/Pb46rNsziZ
— Angelo Spencer-Smith (@agibadger) January 4, 2016
The disadvantage, and why it is taking the big pockets of Google to develop the self driving car, is that people might not want it. The fact is that people like their perceived freedom of being able to drive where they want. We are already tracked on many mobile phone applications, and no doubt with the self driving car our movements would be stored in a database which could be hacked.
Like the advent of all human work that has been automated by machines, the fear is that we would be putting our lives in the hands of computers. Are there not countless situations in which just having a car you can drive is better than one that is controlled by a computer? Watch this classic scene from Total Recall (1990) in which Arnold Schwarzenegger finds out what a pain relying on a “dumb” computer can be.
But the reality appears much more sophisticated and assuring as, in normal life, special forces are not chasing you down because you have dangerous memories.
But the self driving car is no longer sci-fi and the reality itself is no longer a fantasy. The true horror comes from a more esoteric question of the role of humans at all. With computers doing so much, some people have called humans the “new 1 percent.”
The list of the jobs computers are taking away from humans is growing:
- Autonomous vehicles
- Trainable factory robots who can learn from humans
- Robotic surgeons
- Warfare drones
- Journalist bots (this article is written by a real person)
- Burger flipping and cooking robots
And the list goes on. Perhaps we need not be afraid of this autonomy. After all, the news of fewer accidents in Google cars should be comforting. Why would we not want more safety? There is something to be said of anything that provides more time to humans and less work to accomplish so that we can get on to solving bigger problems, like solving world hunger or creating world peace. Drive a Google self-driving car, and you could be working for just that.
[Image by Michael Shick (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]