Self-driving cars- the new Age Conundrum?

In this age of innovations, the latest to join the bandwagon is Self-Driving aka Autonomous Cars. What’s new now? The Self-Driving Cars are those which doesn’t require a Driver to move rather uses a combination of sensors like GPS, Odometry, Radar, Sonar, Inertial Measurement Units and Software to perceive the Environment and navigate accordingly. Technically, they are Driverless Cars with minimal Human intervention. It’s the Future of Personal Transportation by spending minimum time behind the Wheel or none at all.

Is it possible?

Yes, it’s a reality now. There are approx. 46 Corporations working over this and so far General Motors’ Cruise has Chevrolet Bolts zooming around San Francisco; Google’s self-driving spinoff Waymo has got Chrysler Pacifica SUV motoring about Mountain View but all these Vehicles have come with a Human Seat monitoring the performance of the Vehicle and intervene if needed.

The state of California has been toying with this idea since 2012 and deployed the Self-driver cars as a Test run basis with a compulsory presence of a safety Driver. After Arizona created History by allowing to run Driverless Cras for over a year now, the Californian DMV released a new proposal for fresh Clauses in the Autonomous Vehicle Policy which would enable Companies to deploy vehicles on public roads without drivers. The proposal was open for Public Review till October 25 and yesterday, Google’s much coveted WAYMO had it’s first to run. Yes, completely driverless.

Controversy, here I cometh

No Invention is complete without its fair share of controversy. With the clear possibility of Autonomous Cars fleeting in Roads, several dilemmas have popped-up over the Roadways safety and ethical issues. On one hand, we must encounter questions as Liability in case of accidents, decision making capability of the Software in case of Congestion, Traffic Diversions; on the other hand, Insurance Sector, Fuel Companies, Manpower Industry may hit an all-time low. Over-reliance on the Technology may render Humans incapable of handling the Car in case of an emergency.

As per 2015 McKinsey & Co. A report, even being equipped with limited safety features, the Self-Driving Cars has the capacity to bring down Road Accidents up to 90%. There is no denying the fact Driver’s lack of concentration is the most common reason behind the most number of Road kills and mishaps. Application of Artificial Intelligence is expected to act better here but is it capable of making ethical decisions too?

Germany has recently tried to answer this dilemma upholding the Human factor and urged to protect the Human Life at any cost but what if one must make choices between Lives?  Say, in a narrow Road, a group of Elders is waiting to cross and suddenly a Toddler jumps in front of the car to grab his Ball. Whom to save in this Case? Again, if the Driver has only one option to save either the Passenger or the Pedestrian, who’s the lucky one? Statistically, Human behavior shows a slight inclination towards saving the Passenger. The issue is clearly not only about making choices but about maintaining the Principles even when not in control. Will a Machine operated Vehicle will be having the same privilege of argument as a Human-Operated one?

Clearly, there are more questions than answers. Challenges as such Values, Ethics, Infrastructures, Regulations need to be overcome to make Self-Driving Cars a reality. Till then, happy wheeling Folks!

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