Reading 12: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Self-driving cars and “mobility” are becoming our not so distant future.  Transportation is something that is a part of everyone’s lives in some way.  More specifically, most people drive a car somewhat frequently.  Possibly more importantly, there are some people that have a need to drive a car every day but are prevented from doing so, possibly because of a disability.  Self-driving cars are a way of giving the option to drive to more people.  In general, driving is a dangerous activity, taking the lives of 1.3 million people per year.  One of the goals in self-driving cars is to make driving a safer activity, including preventing drunk driving accidents.  Every company is trying to be a part of this field and they are smart to do so.

Not all advancement is good advancement.  There are a lot of dangerous implications that come with this new advancement.  A lot of people are skeptical of how safe these cars can be.  While they might be less dangerous if all of the cars on the road were also self-driving cars, they have to drive on roads with mainly human drivers.  This can still lead to accidents and possible injuries and deaths.  There is also a concern for the threat to numerous transportation based jobs.  Taxi drivers have already experienced this with the rise in popularity of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.  Now professions like truck drivers are worried about their own job-safety.

How these autonomous vehicles approach life-and-death situations is widely debated.  Something to help explain this problem is called The Trolley Problem goes.  Let us say that a trolley headed on its current track is about to hit and kill five people.  There is a lever that you could pull that would change the trolley’s course, making it hit and kill only one person.  Do you pull the lever? Most people would choose to pull the lever and kill the one person, saving the five people.  But when it comes to the context of the autonomous vehicle, it becomes more controversial.  If the car was about to hit five people crossing a street, should the car choose to swerve and hit another car and another person?  What if this swerve resulted in the death of the driver? If we treated this situation like The Trolley Problem, then we would have the car kill the driver.  However, most people have a problem with this.  People believe that these vehicles should protect the drivers.

I would definitely consider getting a self driving car.  As someone who falls asleep the moment she is inside of a moving vehicle, there are a lot of benefits to owning a self driving car.  I would want the car to allow the driver to have some control in some situations where I felt I needed to take over.  I like having up to date technologies and owning something like a self driving car would be very exciting.  It is transforming the transportation industry and I want to be a part of it.