Revolutionary Autonomous Driving Technology And The Importance Of Media
Recently, a self-driving SUV of Uber turned on its side after it collided with another vehicle on the road in Tempe, Arizona. On March 25, 2017, the police immediately went to the crash scene and found that another vehicle was not able to yield, inevitably hitting the Uber SUV.
Though there was a person behind the wheel at the time of the collision, authorities have yet to make a statement whether that person was in control or not. The collision smashed the windows of the autonomous car, although there is no report of a serious injury.
What resulted from the accident raised concerns about the safety of employing an autonomous driving technology. Aside from questions on the impending unemployment of the human drivers of Uber, discussions about the dynamics between autonomous vehicle technology and how it interacts with other human drivers once again surged.
The crash happened at a time when Uber has to grapple with a range of issues. One of the things they have to resolve is the accusation on its employees about stealing Waymo’s intellectual property. Waymo, Google’s company for self-driving vehicles, alleges that Uber is using its property as the basis for their self-driving technology. Whether the lawyers of Uber will help win the case or not, the result of the legal fight would affect the future of Uber significantly.
Autonomous driving technology, questions of safety
As mentioned earlier, the accident has sparked questions about the general safety of implementing the autonomous driving technology. That happens as the technology’s role on US roads become more prominent than ever. The technology is part of a burgeoning industry where companies are allotting billions of dollars in the hope of changing today’s transportation system with cars that no longer need human drivers.
However, with more issues to address, the future of automated driving is still far off. As of now, vehicles with self-driving power will still need to share the roads with human drivers. A mix of autonomous and human driving will place self-driving cars in seemingly simple situations that in reality require complex navigation capabilities like what to do when another vehicle does not yield.
Federal and state governments also have to clarify issues of regulations over self-driving cars. Just last year, a policy paper outlined 15 guidelines that developers of self-driving cars should follow according to the Transportation Department. In different states across the country, local legislators are still debating on how best to regulate vehicle testing on public roads without endangering other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians.
It has become a push and pull between producing innovative technology and monitoring it with guidelines that may fall short of providing demanding stakeholders’ interests. The stakes here are higher when lives become part of the equation. Dialogues ensue as concerns for injuries and deaths as results of self-driving mishaps become more pronounced. To what extent must the public tolerate such accidents for the sake of technological development?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2015, at least 35,000 people were involved in fatal vehicular accidents. The statistics show that most accidents resulted due to human error. For the technology enthusiasts and those who support autonomous driving, that number will reduce when more pilotless vehicles roll out on the roads.
The role of media in self-driving car industry
Observers, critics, and stakeholders of the industry expect media coverage to play a great role in shaping the perception of the public on autonomous driving technology and its safety. Reports and the responses of officials on the crashes involving automated vehicles could ultimately influence the demand, or lack of it, for self-driving cars.
On May 7, 2016, the Tesla Model S received national attention when it had its first fatality while operating in Autopilot mode. Even though a government investigation ruled out the possibility of a software defect, many people are apprehensive about riding a self-driving vehicle.
According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the level of media coverage of autopilot crashes is significantly higher than that of manual accidents by which around 1.2 million people die annually. For Musk, the media does not reflect the statistics well enough, and that changes the general public’s perception of this particular innovative technology. He even added that dissuading people from using a vehicle with autonomous capability is in a way killing people.
Aside from accident reports, the media also discloses how an industry that once created jobs is now becoming one that knocks down the demand for such. Uber is one that plans to ultimately nix its human drivers for going driverless in the coming years. Going driverless cuts the operational expenses of such companies. But what happens to the drivers who will eventually become jobless? That is another question that the media aims to answer.
Takeaway – the future of the industry
Nashville, Arizona, Los Angeles, Michigan, and Arlington are some of the places that permit the tests of self-driving vehicles on their public roads. With counties, cities, and states allowing the trials for autonomous driving, the future of the industry inevitably relies on how various stakeholders perceive and receive the technology.
Though the media plays a significant role in the industry, local and national governments will have to decide what they presume is best for their constituents eventually. Safety concerns will always be present, and that will help companies and their engineers and innovators to push the boundaries of technology while always considering the development of the general public’s well being.