Yielding to the Wealth Gap

As our society draws closer and closer to a world with autonomous vehicles there is always a bit of uncertainty as to what the future will hold. What changes will be made to the roads of our world? How will these vehicles function? etc. But there is one question that perhaps isn’t receiving the amount of attention it should be: who will be driving these cars? Certainly we can expect that car manufacturers will not be standing on street corners handing out keys to their newest and fanciest autonomous cars with no concern for profits or the like. So we must now ask ourselves this: will the people who absolutely need this technology be the ones to get it? Before we go on please take a a few minutes and watch the video below to understand just what I mean when I say that.

As we see in the video these cars can undoubtedly have an amazing effect on the lives of people from all walks of life. From erasing the gap of mobility and ease of travel between drivers today and those who are disabled, to significantly reducing the amount of crashes and accidents as we’ve covered previously it is clear that automated vehicles will have an immeasurable impact on the quality of life of everybody in the United States and beyond. Knowing that, it would seem only logical that the government or car manufacturers at the very least take steps to ensure this technology gets in the hands of everyone – one safer driver means a whole safer road in general after all. But yet this is the area of automated vehicles that gets a little complicated because as we all know, technology is expensive – even technology that has been around already for years (looking at you, new Macbook Pro). So what then do we do? Do we have an obligation as a society to ensure that everyone who needs an automated vehicle gets one? And if so how do we finance such an endeavor?

Looking just at the data, in 2014 the average American spent around $30,000 on a new car. For reference, the Toyota Prius in the video above starts at a price of $20,806 and while on the surface it would seem that the average American would be able to afford this vehicle this is before any of the new automation technology is taken into account. Looking at the technology we’ll start with the addition of Velodyne LIDAR system which is the main operating system for the vehicle; add to that the visual and radar sensors for the vehicle and the cost for that alone comes to about $10,000. Moving on from that there is also the GPS array which is needed to keep the automated vehicles running that clocks in at a cool $200,000. So just looking at this from an extremely shallow perspective, the Toyota Prius that was featured in the above video costs nearly $320,000; more expensive than a Ferrari 599. It should go without saying that as of right now this does not bode well for the future of affordable self-driving cars as with the high costs of the new technologies your average American will not be able to afford one of these vehicles.

However, all is not lost as with advancing technology also comes cheaper alternatives to the technology in an attempt to stay competitive.  Today, instead of Toyota rolling out a new fully automated Prius and adding nearly $300,000 to the price tag they are instead opting to add only around $7,000-$10,000 to price tag in exchange for having the new Prius instead be a semi-autonomous vehicle. With these minor adjustments and technology prices decreasing eventually over time it is predicted that by 2035 automating a vehicle will only increase the price of the car by $3,000. Currently and perhaps unsurprisingly it appears that automotive companies have a bit of an advantage with rolling out these cars quickly as industry giant Google continues to hold that they still are operating under the model that their fully automated vehicles will not available for sale until the five to ten years. Looking at the landscape of autonomous vehicles today it is not an unreasonable expectation that most of the country will have the opportunity to buy a fully autonomous vehicle soon. However we must be mindful that having the opportunity and being able to are two very different things, and that even as prices drop in some areas there will still be people left behind as a result of lacking the money to advance into the automated age with everyone else. Today I leave you with a video posted below; a recent publicity stunt from Budweiser involving an automated beer truck driving around on a highway – let it serve to remind us that for as amazing and cool as this technology is lets not break out the beer and celebrate before the people who really need it, the Steve Mahan’s of the world, get it.

5 thoughts on “Yielding to the Wealth Gap

  1. kaitlyn healy

    In the article, “Yielding to the Wealth gap “by William Farlie the topic of autonomous vehicles were discussed. The article starts with a short video presentation on how the cars work and how beneficial these cars can be for disabled people. The idea that people who were told they could never drive now have the ability to drive is amazing. This new technology can open a new world of possibilities for people with disabilities and a chance to live a normal life. In the video it showed a man driving around a city running errands and the car was doing all the driving for him. The article then goes on to discuss the problem involved with this type of technology and that is the financial aspect. You can take a cheap car and add this type of technology and it can create a price tag of over three hundred thousand dollars. Unfortunately the price will make this type of technology too far out of reach for most citizens. A good point brought up is that this type of driving would first increase the quality of life for our citizens and second it would reduce car crashes and make the roads safe. So the questions that were posed were, should our government have an obligation to make sure that all citizens that need this type of vehicle get one and should our government fund these type of cars? First I don’t think our government at this time can afford to provide these type of vehicles to people in need. They are a great convenience but not a necessity and the government first has to look at the cost for having these type of vehicle on the road even if people could afford them. Some infrastructures would have to change to accommodate these cars and companies are going to have to work on the price tag to make this work. The article says that Google is stating that a fully autonomous car won’t be available for at least five to ten years.
    The article made a good point explaining that with all technology things always start off with a high price tag and over time the price goes down. We see this all time with things like televisions and phones. I remember when 3-D tv’s first came out they were so much money and as time passed and others companies caught up to technology the price came down. The article states that the by the year 2035 this type of technology will be available for the price off three thousand dollars but that is probably because engineers will probably be working on things like flying cars by then.
    I saw a documentary on these self-driving cars that Google and Tessa have and it was very interesting but it still seems that there are a lot of tweaks that have to happen to make it safe. I love the idea that opportunity for people who could never drive is there but we have to make sure it is safe and affordable. It can’t fall back on the government to supply these cars but perhaps as more and more people get them the government can do some sort of incentive that would create a whole society of self-driving cars, this would probably be safer because it would eliminate the chance of human error and that is what usually causes accidents.

  2. Robby Hazel

    As everyone who studies business or works in the business field knows, it is simply all about profit. Sure, companies love to have favorable public images but when it really comes down to it, most businesses operate solely to make money. Unfortunately, businesses have the tendency to cross ethical boundaries in search or lower costs, higher profits, and less regulation and government oversight. In William Farlie’s article regarding the fair distribution of autonomous automobiles, he questioned whether automobile manufacturing and technology giants such as Toyota and Google would properly allocate their extremely useful technology to the people who need it the most. He pointed out that all the technology that goes into developing a fully functional autonomous vehicle would drastically increase the price of the cars. It seems that in his opinion, corporations have an obligation to ensure that the people who need the services of a self driving car receive it. That would mean the manufacturers would have to pay less attention to locking in profit and more attention to the ethical issues that surround the new and innovative technology. I’m not saying that I think his opinion is wrong, because I also believe corporations need to pay closer attention to global ethical issues, I’m just saying it is impractical.

    The benefits that owning a self driving car could potentially bring to the elderly and disabled are undeniable. People who were unable to get around via automobile before the development of this technology would have an entire world opened up to them if they were able to get behind the wheel of a car that did not actually require them to use it. The elderly would benefit greatly because they would not have to attempt to use their decreased motor skills, and therefore would benefit us as well because they wouldn’t be going twenty miles an hour under the speed limit and slowing up traffic. That being said, supplying self driving cars to those in need, aside from the immense costs, would be a win win for everyone. The advantages are simply undeniable, however in my next paragraph I will explain why I feel corporations either financing or taking a net loss on the cars is simply unfeasible.

    As I previously stated, businesses operate in order to generate revenue and profit. In my opinion, this often is not a greed driven objective. If a company such as Toyota had a cost of goods sold that equaled three hundred thousand dollars a unit and sold the car for a price around what most people typically pay for a new one, the company would become insolvent within a few quarters. This would leave thousands jobless and an industry lacking a former powerhouse manufacturer. If the government subsidized the automobiles, adding it to the already long list of social programs, taxpayers would get their bank accounts drained in order to supply a large amount of individuals their free autonomous automobile. It is for both of these reasons that I truly believe that while it may be what is fair, it simply is not what is feasible.

  3. Robert Andrew Luba

    The article raises the question as to whether or not the people who ‘need’ an autonomous vehicle will be able to get one. I submit that everyone who does need an autonomous car will get one, however, that number is zero. Saying someone needs an autonomous vehicle is like me saying I need a bigger pool, or I need the newest smart phone, or I need softer clothing. I don’t need any of those things as long as I have their less expensive alternative. What the article fails to touch on is the due fairness the car manufacturer deserves. In the first fifteen to twenty years of its production, this technology will be very expensive and will simply not be put into every car. In the end of the day, an autonomous vehicle is a luxury. To speak of the manufacturer as being stingy for not wanting to hand out the keys to their ‘newest, fanciest’ cars to someone who cannot pay is absurd. The automobile manufacturing business is not a charity, and just because someone cannot drive to the standards as everyone else on the road and demands autonomous vehicles to be less expensive, does not mean they can be.
    In America, we operate as capitalists. In a capitalist society, those who benefit the most are those who promoted great capital to yield great capital. By cheapening the hard work of more successful capitalists by implying they are not deserving of an autonomous vehicles or suggesting that they are not to be included with this fictitious group of people that supposedly need an autonomous vehicle to continue living seems more biased. In a society that revolves around the gains of capital, it seems fitting that someone who gains a lot of capital should be able to spend their capital on whatever it is they please. If someone one does not earn enough capital to spend it on superfluous luxuries should be using their desire to have such a vehicle as the impetus for their future financial success. Whether their ventures are incredibly successful or not, they can rest easy by reconciling with the fact that in within just a couple decades the technology will become more perfect and less expensive.
    The nation has developed a mindset that those who make excess money are somehow unethical and cheated along the way. Instead or recognizing the carpenter who makes the most, best chairs as the man who deserves the most benefit for his work, the idea is shifting towards the carpenter who makes the most, best chairs owes to most to those who do not. Do we earn our keep, are we entitled to reap the benefit of our work? While this seems common sensical, when thrown into a large group of people it becomes skewed. The benefit one works hard one does ceases to be their own and must be contributed to a central governance to be shared. While this is legal truth in the form of taxes, this ideology has bleed into the commercial market somehow. One should only be limited by how hard he is willing to work, by trying to assure equality of conclusion, the inherent fairness of capitalism is robbed.

  4. Justin Scherzo

    Everyone always wants the best brand-new thing that comes on the market. We have seen this over and over with the IPhone, people pitch tents outside the Apple stores in order to secure the newest gadget. I think that those people are crazy, but if it means that much to them, they should do whatever their heart desires. This article talks about the expenses that will be created from autonomous vehicles. I have been asking this question for a while in previous articles, how cost effective will these vehicles be? There is so much that goes into a vehicle that can drive itself like GPS, monitors all over the car, and other safety features.
    The author of the article presents good information on the price of the average car and how there would be a steep increase because of the features needed in autonomous cars. All the features for these cars would total around $200,000, not including the car itself. That is enough to buy a house! At the current point in time, there are very few people who would be able to afford this kind of technology.
    In the future, there is a very strong possibility that we could see these vehicles. They are safer and more efficient than current cars and they are predicted to raise the car’s price by $3,000 in 2035. This is much more doable for the average person.
    I remember reading a blog just a few weeks ago about how Uber is implementing these cars in the streets of Pittsburgh. I thought a lot of what they were saying about the cars could be very beneficial, but I also had some questions. One major one would be the possible problems that could arise from obstacles in the road. There were not many answers for how the cars would react but I am sure that there will be many changes in the technology as it grows more advanced.
    When asking ourselves if the good outweighs the bad, my answer would have to be yes. It will take a while to see these vehicles on the road but if they keep the roads safer and reduces traffic, I am for it. An issue that these vehicles present is will the art of driving be lost? Personally, I spend a good amount of driving, and I enjoy being focused on the road and not having to worry about the problems that everyday life present. For car collectors, they would simply have beautiful cars but would not be able to drive them. There would be a lot of backlash as a result of implementing these cars.
    The title of the article also intrigues me. It is titled “Yielding to the Wealth Gap”, while surely it is impossible for the average person to afford one of these cars currently, they seem affordable in the future. For the most part, these vehicles are not street legal, so we will not see them for a while and they will not contribute to the wealth gap. In the future, I believe that we will see the average person using these vehicles.

  5. Joselito Abarca

    In the article, “Yielding to the Wealth gap by William Farrie, he discusses the autonomous vehicles and its impact in the future. The short video describes. the benefit it can have to the elderly and other people who are unable to drive due to their disability. They would have an entire world open to them because they can travel anywhere whenever they want to. However implanting this technology is a vehicle is expensive. For example the vehicle used in the video is a Toyota Prius Toyota which has a starting price of $20,806. At this price, the average consumer is able to afford the vehicle. But the expenses that are needed is what drives the price. The Velodyne LIDAR system which is the main operating system cost around $10,000. Finally, the GPA array which is on the most important components of the autonomous vehicle costs around $200,000. We are looking at around $320,000 and the average American cannot afford such a vehicle. It is more expensive than a Ferrari. The autonomous vehicle is a luxury that only the wealthy be able to afford. For many, the better alternative to sending it on an autonomous vehicle is buying a house Data from 2014, shows that the average American spent $30,000 on a brand new car. I like how Toyota is going to make their vehicles semi-autonomous. Autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages of development and I think people sill want to have some control over their car until it is perfectly safe to drive autonomous. For someone is handicapped or disables, unless they are wealthy they will not be able to afford such a vehicle. Eventually I believe the cost will go down that is how all new technology is. Even when the first new iPhones release, the prices are high at first but gradually go down as the year goes by. I see the same thing occurring with autonomous vehicles. By 2035 it will only increase the price of the vehicle by $3,000 making it much affordable. These vehicles have the opportunity to make our lives more convenient. As I stated previously before, the elderly and disabled will be able to go where they desire without having to rely on someone to drive them around. Consumers will also be able to travel long distances without having to worry about driving for hours because the cars will do it themselves. Eventually, the average consumer will be able to afford the autonomous car. For those vehicles to finally to drive on the streets, a lot of legislations still needed in order to insure these vehicles are legal on the street. As the article points out, many people will still be left out without the opportunity to drive these vehicles. I also feel that the autonomous vehicles will be more popular with millennials since they are the generation that are most tech savvy’s. I believe that the older generation will rely on vehicles in which


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