There is much commotion about the advent of driverless cars. Some researchers anticipate that these cars will reduce the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents by 90 percent. Others predict that accidents caused by distracted drivers will become a thing of the past.
If you or a loved one has ever been in a car accident with a distracted driver, you may welcome this miraculous possibility. However, skeptics and pragmatists caution people to look closer at the computer programming behind the seeming genius of the autonomous car. What many hail as a solution in theory may open a whole new set of problems in practice.
Do the needs of the many outweigh those of the few?
You can't deny the benefits autonomous cars offer. People with physical handicaps, those with vision impairments and the elderly who fear losing their independence may have mobility of which they had only dreamed. If you have a long commute to work, your drive may be much more pleasant without the worry of dodging cars driven by reckless or distracted drivers.
Nevertheless, proponents of the autonomous cars are having difficulty explaining how the cars will make their decisions, especially in situations where there is no perfect solution. For example, what if you are in an autonomous car with a family member and there is no way to avoid an accident? Will the car choose the options with the fewest number of casualties? Will it sacrifice others to protect you and your spouse?
Once-in-a-lifetime events arise in front of Texas drivers every day, and autonomous car manufacturers have admitted there is no way to program every possible situation into a car's computer. However, is it possible to teach the vehicle to tell the difference between a child and a dog? Is it possible to program the vehicle simply to avoid ever killing another human being?
A question you may wonder is, whose insurance pays when your car decides to avoid an accident with a school bus by crashing into pedestrians on a sidewalk? Even though you weren't driving the car, would you still be liable for the disaster?
Obviously, there are many contingencies left to consider and questions to answer before an autonomous car sits in every driveway. Until then, you will still have to contend with the dangers of your daily commute.