Automated vehicles, like most up and coming technologies, are extremely exciting to some people but unsurprisingly terrifying to others. There exist a great many people who cannot wait to see increases in productivity or inefficiency the likes of which we’ve never seen before that is currently being heralded by the coming of automated vehicles. As we will cover in a future post, automated vehicles will make almost everyone’s lives easier and more convenient by decreasing the amount of time and effort spent driving cars. But why exactly is this being mentioned in a post about the downsides of automated vehicles? What could make people be reprehensible about having automated vehicles? You’ve probably already figured out the answer on your own: job loss. Just from a cursory glance at statistics from 2014 provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics we are able to see that in the United States alone transportation makes up 4,640,300 jobs, all of which stand to become redundant when the revolution that is automation hits the transportation industry. Unfortunately, those four million people are not the only ones who should be worried because the way this technological change is set to change our world there will be no one who is left unaffected. Before going anything farther into this topic I’ve posted an extremely well-made video below on the topic of automation which may help to convey the extent to which automation will touch not just vehicles but all facets of our lives.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.”
Just keeping the conversation focused on the transportation industry, the loss of over four million jobs in the United States will be felt not only be those unemployed people but also economically nationwide. However, problems will persist farther than just on an economic scale when those four million jobs are made redundant. The United States will be left with a dearth of jobs for those four million displaced transportation employees as most will not have the education nor the skill set needed to obtain a job in skilled labor industries. Therefore with four million people out of a job and lacking the prerequisites to get a job that has not been automated the United States, as well as the rest of the world, will be left in a very precarious situation with no easy solution for combating unemployment.
Following that, for all the good that the future of autonomous vehicles holds there are still other issues that arise when trying to successfully implement them. The first and perhaps the biggest obstacle for getting an autonomous vehicle on the road would be the rapid pace that both driving laws and the legal system in the United States and around the world would need to change. Before any automated vehicles can be made street legal various laws would have to dramatically reworked. Just as an example, when doing research for this blog post I attempted to find posts or videos on the internet which would provide a useful definition of what being street legal is with regards to automated vehicles. Of the multiple articles that I found, none of them have any useful information regarding self-driving cars. The only article I was able to find about the issue would only go as far as to say that self-driving cars operate in a, “kind of legal gray zone.” Regardless, steps are however being made in the right direction. The first state to take one such step has been California, which is allowing testing on the streets of it’s state once certain conditions are met. The most important part of all of this for both companies and the government is the cost of the law with each automated vehicle that is being tested without the aid of a human behind the wheel needing to be insured for five million dollars. While this will make it extremely costly for companies to test their cars on California streets the unfortunate reality is that California is the only state where humanless tests are allowed. Delving deeper into the law and logistics of automated vehicles, the next part of the new California laws are 112 pages and a four part policy that must be met in order for any car to even hit the streets. The U.S. Department of Transportation has set a clear 15- point safety assessment clearance policy that each car must pass before they are allowed to be driven which could make the process rather repetitive and tedious. The obvious downside here is that because of the increase in costs and the high levels of restrictions levied upon automated technology by the law the technology is unable to grow at the fastest possible rate.
On a completely different front, with an increase in reliance on technology and software to operate our vehicles people will start viewing these less as vehicles and more as computers. Unfortunately, just like with computers people will look to hack into our cars, which could be detrimental for the safety of the roads. The world of cyber security is still years away from catching up with the ever advancing technology we know as autonomous vehicles. We are verging on a world where there will be thousands of networks operating to make self-driving cars run everyday, and moreover, a world where automakers will have to step up their security in order to ensure the safety of all drivers. Think of a world where a terrorist attack is no longer the threat of a nuclear bomb, but the threat of them gaining access to our driving networks and controlling our streets and highways. The future is a place where we cannot afford to have no internet connection as that will make it impossible for autonomous vehicles to communicate with other autonomous vehicles on the road. Right now the automated vehicles are relying on software like Google Maps to operate their vehicles which translates to vehicles of the future having a dependency on being connected to wifi at all times which would require the addition of wireless networks on all U.S. roadways. Not only that, the installation of wifi is just the first step as for the technologies to truly work. GPS and specific software for the vehicles themselves will need to be updated constantly so that the cars can function properly and avoid accidents. Not only would all this be costly but also it would require wireless companies to come together in order to be able to string up connection needed for the cars to run. So yes, you could say that automated vehicles have more than a few areas in which they are still for lack of a better word, lacking.