New technology can be scary. It certainly presents risks and challenges. But I have to admit, one technology I am very excited about is autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars.
We’ve talked about the potential for the Internet of Thing to leave us with nowhere to hide, and self-driving cars are part of that. We have also mused about the possibility of the government ruining self-driving cars.
But let’s take a moment to balance those positions with the benefits of autonomous vehicles.
First, it frees up so much valuable time for humans. Time is the most precious resource and morbidly limited. As many as 90% of working Americans drive a car to work. The average commute is about 25 minutes. This means an average American worker would get over 4 hours of their life back each week!
Granted, they would still be in a car, but most people have pressing tasks that can be accomplished on a smartphone or laptop. Over the course of a lifetime, this amounts to getting a full year of your life back, that would otherwise be spent flipping off other commuters, and beeping the horn in frustration. Nevermind that most people will use that year to scroll Facebook.
Second, way fewer people will die in car accidents. I know it is scary to let go of control, but automation of traffic patterns will lead to far fewer roadway fatalities. Currently, about 1.3 million people worldwide die each year in traffic accidents. Many more are seriously injured.
The possibility that cars will be hacked is scary. But seeing as this is a pressing concern for consumers, it would be very bad publicity for whatever company has their car taken over by hackers. So far no hacker has been able to do so in industry tests which reward hackers for finding vulnerabilities in their systems.
Also, most cars can already be hacked. It is much easier to make a murder look like an accident when humans are behind the wheel.
Third, economic resources that were once spent on cars and insurance will be freed up! Most people will not have to buy a car, they will simply use rideshare programs. The ones who do buy cars will likely have a much lower cost to insure the vehicle.
Fourth, we no longer have to worry about drunks, elderly, teen drivers, or distracted drivers. Think of all the social problems this immediately removes! No more debates about taking driver’s licenses away at a certain age. No more tweaking regulations and legislation in a fruitless attempt to curb teen accidents.
Go ahead and text in your car, talk on the phone, mess around with friends, and even crack open a beer! It doesn’t matter, the technology is in control.
In America, over 10,000 deaths per year from drunk driving accidents will be prevented when all cars on the road are self-driving.
Fifth, and possibly widely overlooked, is that autonomous vehicles really throw a wrench in most excuses for the police to engage you. Police can currently pull you over when driving for almost anything. If they see a taillight out, if you cross the center line, if you are driving a bit too fast, if you speed up for a yellow light, if you swerve, and so on and so forth.
Most people will be able to go from their own private property to the private property of a car. Then they will exit onto a business or individual’s private property, and never give the government a chance to violate their rights.
About 1.5 million people are arrested each year in the U.S. for Driving Under the Influence. Think of how much it costs taxpayers to send those people through the court system.
Then there are all the people arrested for drugs after the police search their vehicles during a traffic stop. Again, the court system is unburdened. Fewer rights will be violated. Fewer illegal searches will be conducted.
Cops will be safer since they won’t constantly be walking up to strangers in vehicles. People will be safer and not have to worry about being shot when a cop can’t see their hands for a split second. This removes entire swaths of dangerous interactions between the police and the public.
Autonomous vehicles might prove instrumental in changing the cultural acceptance of being stopped, questioned, and searched by officers for no real reason.
Like with any other new technology, there will be difficulties and unforeseen dangers to autonomous vehicles. But these five benefits only scratch the surface.
There will be changes in the landscape, social activity, and recreation. There will be new opportunities for shipping, selling, and conducting business.
What are you most worried or excited about for the advent of autonomous vehicles?