The driverless car - it sounds like something straight out of science fiction, doesn't it? And there has been a lot of hype about it - but have those who are working on it really thought about the possible drawbacks?
As technology advances and semi-autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, it's worth taking a closer look at the potential risks involved. After all, as we all know, nothing in life is completely foolproof. So, what are some of the possible risks of the driverless car? Let's dive in.
Will their software crash?
First and foremost, there's the issue of reliability. Certainly, autonomous vehicles are equipped with all sorts of fancy sensors and algorithms that are supposed to make them super safe and reliable. Let's be real here, though - technology isn't perfect. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, Tesla's autopilot system was involved in a fatal crash. Now imagine that happening when you're cruising down the motorway at 70 miles per hour amongst a number of cars with no human driver; and some of which may be getting a bit old, with the possible concerns about their technology failing. Not exactly a comforting thought, is it?
Will their sensors survive the British climate?
How will they stand up to bad weather? Driving over a pre-planned route, in the Californian sunshine, is one thing. Driving over Shap Fell in a snowstorm; through torrential rain on the Pennines; or down the M1 on a shlushy day with all manner of road filth thrown up, how will their sensors cope?
Will shadowy hackers learn how to take them over?
Then there's the issue of hacking. With all the technology and connectivity that goes into driverless cars, they are prime targets for cyber attacks. In fact, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, the global automotive cyber security market is expected to reach $2.93 billion (that's £2.4 billion in real money) by 2025. Just imagine some nefarious hacker taking control of your car and sending it careening into a ditch. Or worse yet, imagine a fleet of autonomous vehicles being hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.
Will workers resent losing their jobs?
Another potential risk of driverless cars is the loss of jobs. Think about all the people whose livelihoods depend on driving - taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and so on. According to a report by the Centre for Cities, the rise of autonomous vehicles could result in the loss of 1.2 million driving jobs in the UK alone. Yes, there will be new jobs created in the field of autonomous vehicle technology, but will they be enough to make up for the loss of jobs in other sectors?
Who pays the compensation when things go wrong?
And then there's the issue of liability. Who is responsible if a driverless car gets into an accident? Is it the car manufacturer, the software developer, the owner of the vehicle, or some combination of all three? According to a report by the Law Commission of England and Wales, the current legal framework may not be sufficient to deal with the issues raised by autonomous vehicles. And what if there's a malfunction in the software or hardware, caused by external causes like heavy rain or snow, that causes an accident? Who is held accountable then?
Can those who collect their data be trusted?
Of course, there are also concerns about privacy and data security when it comes to autonomous vehicles. With all the data that is collected and transmitted by these cars, who has access to it? What safeguards are in place to protect that data from hackers or other malicious actors? According to a report by the European Data Protection Supervisor, there is a need for a clear legal framework to regulate the collection and processing of data by autonomous vehicles.
On the other hand ...
Now, I know what you're thinking - "Gee, thanks for the cheery article, mate. You've really put my mind at ease." Then again, here's the thing - whilst there are certainly risks involved with driverless cars, there are also potential benefits. Think about all the lives that could be saved if there were fewer accidents on the road. According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of car accidents are caused by human error. Or the potential for increased mobility for people who are unable to drive themselves. And let's not forget the potential for reduced traffic congestion and lower emissions.
At the end of the day, the driverless car is a complex issue with no easy answers. However, as technology continues to advance and autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, it's important that we weigh the potential risks against the potential benefits.