A driverless car, also known as a self-driving car is an autonomous car
which can perform the actions of the human being, as if a man were driving a
traditional car. We can say that the car is independent of the human as the car only
needs to be programmed with the destination. The mechanical part of the vehicle is
held by the car its own. Moreover, to function, the car has some specific
technology, for example laser, radar, GPS and computer vision. An example of an
approved case of self-driving cars can be Google’s.
In 2011 the state of Nevada was the first jurisdiction in the United States to
pass a law concerning the operation of driverless cars. This law was turned into
effect by March 2012 and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles gave the first
license for a self-driven car in May 2012. This license was given to Google’s car
which was in this case a Toyota Prius. Google got involved with this issue as it is
trying to develop technology for driverless vehicles. In addition, the project is
currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the co-inventor of Google Street View. To
develop this system, Google also had to hire 15 engineers.
This topic about self-driving cars involves also other issues such as
hardware and software, social and ethical issues and the social impact.
As regards hardware and software involved, it integrates Google Maps with
various hardware sensors and artificial intelligence software so as to take its
passengers where they want safely and comfortably. Google Maps provides the
car with road information; the hardware sensors provide the vehicle with real time
environment conditions and the artificial intelligence software provides the car with
real time decisions. Google Maps interacts with the GPS and acts as a database.
In addition, it is in charge of looking for speed limits, upcoming intersections, traffic
reports, nearby collisions and directions.
Concerning hardware, we have to take in
account that it uses an array of sensors to
navigate public roads without a human
driver, and many other components.
Google’s Toyota Prius possesses a lidar,
which is a rotating sensor on the roof that
scans more than 200 feet in all directions to
generate a precise three-dimensional map
of the car’s surroundings; a position http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/ 1
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estimator, that is a sensor mounted on the left rear wheel which measures small
movements made by the car and helps to accurately locate its position on the map;
radars (three in front and one in the rear) which help to determine the positions of
distant objects and it also uses a video camera mounted near the rear-view mirror
which detects the traffic lights and moving objects. All this hardware sensors help
the car to have a fully observable environment. In addition, the lidar contributes
with the car generating a 360o 3D map. Moreover, if we take in account the artificial
intelligence of the car, we can base our ideas regarding autonomy, goals and the
ability of reasoning of the car. Autonomy means that the car can solve problems
without any human interaction. Goals suggest that the car can take a person to his
or her desired destination safely.
Regarding the social and ethical issues that can be mentioned, we can base
the ideas on the topic of responsibility. Why do we say that this is a relevant topic?
It is because nowadays many people ask themselves whether the car or the
producer or the owner of the car is to blame if an accident occurs. For example,
since the first autonomous car was created there have been a total of two
accidents and the authorities have taken the conclusion that both accidents were
because of the human error. However, it is not easy for the authorities to get to the
conclusions and to know the truth. Concerning this issue, the Northeastern
University writes, “Though Google’s car has been making headlines since it was
revealed, self-driving cars have been studied world-wide since the 1980s; some projects
had already com-pleted thou-sands of self-driven miles as early as 1995. The pace of
advance-ment picked up over the last decade, in part because the United States Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency spon-sored sev-eral high-profile competitions.”
There are many other ethical issues that are related to accidents and
responsibility. In the first place, we can highlight an issue that has to do with
comparing humans to robots. It is not a new knowledge that robots have some
advantages over humans; for example, robots cannot fall asleep or be distracted
by the advertisements that are in the landscape and, what is more, they cannot get
drunk. In second place, the way in which the robot drives is more secure than the
way in which a human drives. The robot is designed so as to respect the speed
limits, the traffic lights and traffic signals. On the contrary, many people do not
respect these things mentioned because they are in a hurry and because of this,
many accidents are forced. This is to say, in some way, it is better for society to
have robots controlling cars so as to prevent crashes and disasters. In third place,
many people think that the fact that cars have to be controlled by software will
reduce also social chaos. Why do we say this? We can insure this statement
Fernando Martín Vicente Villa Devoto School
because nowadays people get stressed many times due to traffic chaos. Struggles
and discussions are in many times
caused by this chaos. However, cars that
are controlled by robots not only provide
benefits and happiness to society; there
are lots of cases in which society is
negatively affected by these autonomous
As regards the social impact that
driverless cars bring for society we can
say that these cars affect society economically. For example, these cars have a
negative connotation for workers that use cars and buses to carry out their works.
This is because autonomous cars are more secure and respect the law, and for
authorities this is better because of the fact that this will reduce accidents. It would
be an economic problem because drivers will be unemployed and unemployment
will carry out poverty, and this poverty will cause social chaos. Apart from taxi
drivers and bus drivers, many other workers such as mechanics, insurance
companies and assistance companies will become poorer because of the less
work due to the less accidents that these cars will produce.
To sum up, it is important for people to know what to take in account at the
time of working with an autonomous car and to have in mind the benefits and the
drawbacks that these cars can produce.
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