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3 Reasons Why Your Fear of Self-Driving Cars is Justified

October 5, 2017 No Comments

Featured article by Jeremy Sutter, Independent Technology Author

At any point in recent history, humanity has tried to project what the future might look like. In the past, that’s meant a world filled with robots and flying cars by 2000. With that future having gone unrealized, the present looks at autonomous cars. It’s with good reason, too. They look like they’re on their way. Several cars are already semi-autonomous.

This new technology paints a pretty future of more self-actualization, but as humanity adjusts to semi-autonomous cars (and beyond), there’s plenty to be concerned about. If self-driving cars scare you, you’re not alone. Here are three reasons why that fear is justified.

Cost

If you want an autonomous or semi-autonomous car, you’d better be ready to pay up. While Tesla tried to lower costs by making the system work with cameras and sensors, the only truly effective self-driving technology so far has been through the use of Lidar (laser radar). As you might expect, that’s an expensive system to run, and that price won’t go down until demand goes up.

Another consideration is the cost of insurance. A semi-autonomous car still needs to be insured, and insurance companies may be wary. Having a car that partly drives itself makes drivers overconfident in what the car can do. This can lead to the deterioration of safe driving habits, which is cause for insurance companies to raise their prices. Even if that weren’t the case, simple cheap auto insurance will be hard to come by for cars that have self-driving features.

Erosion of Skills and Habits

The present’s projection for the future often looks at a society where people have practice using new technology. They don’t often wonder what the world looks like while transitioning to new technology, but that’s exactly what’s happening with self-driving vehicles. Drivers’ overconfidence in their car’s autonomy is cause for concern for more than the insurance companies; it’s also something you have to consider. The fact that a driver thought the car would stop them from crashing into you wouldn’t exactly make you feel better.

In addition to this, driving skills will gradually erode. Semi-autonomous cars correct course if they go off the road a bit, and they make sure to maintain distance from other cars. That means the driver isn’t practicing those skills. There may come a time when the technology fails or when a person drives a non-autonomous car. Zooming down a highway is a terrifying time to have to rely on skills that have become rusty.

Security

When you drive somewhere now, you probably make sure to secure your car by rolling up the windows and locking the doors. You may equip it with an alarm and put it behind a garage, as well. You probably don’t worry about people hacking into your car right now, but as self-driving technology becomes more prevalent, that’s something to think about. Technologies like laser range finders and wheel sensors represent new access points for hackers.

What if hackers took control of an autonomous car—or even a group of them? They could breach the networks and take control of the cars to drive them remotely. They could lead them to undisclosed locations, effectively stealing the vehicles and any cargo they carried. They could, if they chose, use the cars to endanger life.

That may be a bit of a worst-case scenario, but given how frequently smartphones and cloud services are hacked these days, it’s not out of the question. It’s something people pushing for self-driving cars will have to consider and safeguard against, but in the meantime, it’s scary to think about and becoming increasingly possible.

Self-driving cars aren’t a bad idea, but there’s a lot to consider, especially as society transitions from non-autonomous cars to fully autonomous cars. Until that transition’s complete, any fears or hesitations are completely warranted. It’s important that those pushing for autonomy in cars understand these fears and properly address them.

 

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