Self-Driving Cars: What will they mean for society?


Imagine being able to get from point A to point B by pressing a button on your smartphone. This could be a reality within the next few decades with driverless, or autonomous, cars.

Many companies in the United States and abroad are experimenting with driverless cars, including Nissan, Volvo, Ford, and BMW, and Toyota. Google has also been working on its own self-driving car technology since the mid 2000s, and has logged over 700,000 miles in the testing stages. Laws have been passed in California, Florida, District of Columbia and Michigan to allow autonomous vehicle testing on public roads, as well as in nations like Japan and the UK. There are also laws in legislation to allow testing in 14 other states. Google introduced its completely autonomous vehicle prototype this past May.

Google invested $258 million in Uber, which has led some to believe driverless cars will be like a futuristic taxi service, rather than owned by everyday people.A vox.com article said self driving cars would take less time looking for parking spaces in cities, and use less fuel looking for spaces. People would simply be dropped off. More people, especially people with disabilities and the elderly would have access to transportation, which may allow them to find jobs and go shopping, which would contribute to our economy. They also would have more disposable income to contribute to the economy if cars are not individually owned and people don’t need to pay for gas.

One of the major areas people consider with autonomous cars is safety. Many people argue that self-driving cars will reduce or eliminate human error while driving According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, over 37,000 people die in car crashes each year in the United States alone, and over a million people die in car crashes each year around the world. Still, other websites like infosecurity-magazine.com have said that driverless cars can be hacked by terrorists to create horrific attacks.

A sometimes overlooked area is the economic impact of autonomous cars. As many people have pointed out, autonomous cars could take away other public transportation jobs-taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, driver rehabilitation specialists, car insurance agents, etc. Still, who’s to say there won’t be more industries in their place? For example, we may not have telegraph operators anymore, but we have computer programmers and social media managers. Driverless cars are a time and money saver, allowing mankind to focus on bigger and better projects. Computer programmers and robots need someone to repair them. There may even be people needed to monitor the GPS system that runs the self driving cars. A slate.com article suggested that less skilled workers would be able to find jobs in companies like Instacart,an online grocery order service. As culture changes, needed services change.

As a gas2.org article pointed out, it will probably be decades before completely driverless cars become the norm. Because of this, I believe people in the automotive industry won’t lose all of their jobs in a day. There will most likely be time to transition. Only time will tell the real effect that driverless cars will have on our society. Loss of automotive jobs and more people in the workforce may hurt a little at first, but in the end, I believe driverless cars will be better for everyone.

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