Michael Ranging), using laser beams is known as

Michael
Cahill

Dr.
Devlin

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Freshman
Composition 1

29 January 2018

Word Count: 990

Self-Driving Cars

            A self-driving car is essentially a
computerized car that drives itself and will get the passengers from point A to
point B. Self-driving cars are a technology that are going to take a few years
to perfect and make it entirely open to the public, however they will provide
great rewards. Once the technology for self-driving cars is perfected,
self-driving cars will replace and outlaw manually driven cars.

            A major component to understanding how safe self-driving
are is by understanding how they work, because there are many misconceptions
amongst the public. Many people do not understand the technology behind them,
but the technology is actually very impressive and exceeds what a human driver
has to offer. Currently, self-driving cars combine RADAR, SONAR, and LIDAR
technology to provide a safe-working car.

Using radio waves is known as RADAR (RAdio
Detection and Ranging), using laser beams is known as LIDAR (Laser Illumination
Detection and Ranging), and using sound waves is known as SONAR (Sound
Navigation and Ranging). Each method is used for a different purpose. Lasers
are quite good at figuring out where objects are, so self-driving cars emit
many laser beams continuously. The laser light reflects off surrounding objects
and returns to the self-driving car, allowing the car to figure out where
everything is. These laser beams also sweep across various sections of the
car’s “field of view,” allowing the car to map out its surroundings… There’s
also another reason cars don’t use only lasers to figure out the surroundings.
RADAR and SONAR happen to be good at helping determine how fast and in what
direction the objects are moving (Robertson 2).

The best example of this
technology is Google’s self-driving car. It features sixty-four laser beams
that project off the car. The lasers have an amazing range of 200 miles. These
laser beams help the car figure out how far an object is within a 200-mile
range (National 2). This proves just how effective laser beam technology is,
because it allows the car to map out its plan over the next 200 miles (if the
trip is that long).  This debunks the
misconception that self-driving cars will only be able to make decisions based
off what is near them. In fact, laser beam technology is actually far superior
to human vision, because humans can definitely not see 200 miles in advance,
nor plan out 200 miles in advance. Also, the lasers will be able to see all
around the perimeter of the car at any given time, while humans can only see
thru one window at a time. Plus, lasers also eliminate the possibility of a
blind-spot accident, a common type of human error accident. In addition, the
Google car will have four radars on the front and rear bumper of the car. These
bumpers will allow the car to maintain a two to four second proximity from the
car ahead of them (National 5). These bumpers will be much more effective than
the laser beams for closer distance situations such as congested roads. This
type of radar technology is much more effective than the human eye, because it
knows exactly how close the car should be at all times to another car. Human perception
can be greatly skewed, because one never knows exactly how much time it takes
to stop a car in a comfortable amount of time. However, the best part about the
radar and laser technology on Google’s self-driving car is they have multiple
of each. Therefore, if a laser fails, there is still sixty-three more. Or, if a
radar fails, there is still three more on that particular side of the car. This
is extremely important, because technology is very prone to failing over time.
Overall, the technology behind self-driving cars is much better than humans
driving, and it will only improve over time.

             

 

            In time, self-driving cars will
eliminate human error being a factor for accidents. “It’s no surprise to anyone
who’s ever driven on a busy highway, but more than 90%
of automobile accidents are caused by human error — the remaining
10% are caused by vehicle failure, poor weather conditions or other
uncontrollable variables” (Harveston 1).  Once self-driving cars are perfected, it would
not make sense to continue to allow humans to continue to drive these
thousand-pound death machines. Much of the human population has proven that
they have no self-control when it comes to texting and driving or driving
intoxicated. In addition, the technology era provides the human population with
too many distractions that are at our finger tips at any given moment. It is
just too easy to get distracted from the road by trying to pick a new song on
our IPhones to play, but as one is picking a song they get a text from their
significant other. Eventually, they just completely forget they are driving and
become immerged in their phone. Before you know it, you are in an accident with
nobody to blame but yourself. However, a self-driving car would completely
eliminate technology from distracting the driver and causing harm to others.  It would also eliminate the inevitable factor of
driving while tired. In fact: according to the National
Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, 60% of adult drivers
admitted to driving while tired and 37% of drivers have fallen asleep while
driving. There has been nothing to this point implemented that is the
equivalent of a breathalyzer, and state laws are not uniform on driving while
tired (National Sleep Foundation 1). Therefore, there has been very little
steps taken to prevent driving while tired, and it poses an immense threat to
the human population. Once self-driving cars are perfected, there will be no
need to risk tens of millions of lives to tired driving. In fact, self-driving
cars would actually be more productive for sleep deprivation as one would be
able to nap in their car while going to their destination. Perfected self-driving
cars would allow humans to have essentially no responsibility when driving,
which would make it so humans could text, nap, or even drink while in the car
all at no risk to others; therefore, it would make zero sense to drive
regularly and put millions of people’s lives at risk everyday just due to
distractions.   

            Many people will argue that there
will still be accidents due to self-driving cars colliding or hitting other
objects due to technology malfunctions. However, recent advances in
self-driving cars actually debunk this theory: “But how safe is it for people
to ride in autonomous vehicles? The qualitative answer is ‘pretty darn safe.’
Waymo has logged over two million miles on U.S. streets and has only had fault
in one accident, making its cars by far the lowest at-fault rate
of any driver class on the road— about 10 times lower than our safest
demographic of human drivers (60–69 year-olds) and 40 times lower than new
drivers” (Weiland and Crow 1). Although, this is just one company, it shows the
self-driving car doubters that the self-driving car technology out there is
much safer than humans driving. Not to mention, self-driving cars are still in
the works of being perfected. Once they are, it seems very likely that even
this statistic will improve. Based on the probability that these statistics
will improve over time, it truly does not make sense for humans to continue
driving when self-driving cars are likely to be more than ten times safer than
our safest demographic of humans. Another reason people doubt self-driving cars
is they believe self-driving cars will never have human-like intuition. As of
right now: “A self-driving car currently lacks the ability to look at a
person—whether they’re walking, driving a car, or riding a bike—and know what
they’re thinking. These instantaneous human judgments are vital to our safety
when we’re driving—and to that of others on the road, too” (Anthony 2).  This is a very realistic problem, and
self-driving cars do not have the technology, that is equivalent to human
intuition, to pick up on particular situations that may mean life or death for
a pedestrian. However, this is something that will be improved over time when
self-driving cars are perfected. Most likely, self-driving cars will have to
become equipped with computer programming connected to the LIDAR technology
that takes into account nearly every possible scenario that a regular driver
experiences while driving to compensate for the lack of human intuition.
Another possible fix is having self-driving cars alert the driver when it is
unsure what to do, and the driver can provide the self-driving car with
human-like intuition. In that case, the car would not be fully self-automated,
but it could make the driver and pedestrians more comfortable with self-driving
cars. This may be the direction self-driving cars will take when they first completely
come on the market, but it is their best interest to make self-driving cars
fully automated in time. Overall, the answer to these problems will have to
perfected over time, because self-driving cars will be the best option to be
safe on the road.

            Self-driving cars will also have
tremendous economic gains for their “driver.” Self-driving cars will definitely
be a pricey investment to make once one can openly buy them, but the price will
definitely be worth it. However, it will tremendously cut down on accident
related fees: “In 2012, these crashes cost more than $212 billion in health
care costs, repair and insurance. The switch to self-driving cars could reduce
accidents by 90% and potentially reduce those accident-related costs by $190
billion or more a year” (Harveston 1). This would save every driver an immense
amount of money in insurance every year providing that insurance agencies do
not charge more to have a self-driving car. Also, with the potential reduction
of accidents, a driver will not have to worry about replacing their car as
frequently, which also saves money in the long run for the driver. Another way
self-driving cars can save money is actually through time: “Many traffic jams
are caused by human inefficiency, and autonomous car technology could be the
best way to reduce these human errors” (Giarratana 9). In addition, traffic
jams are often the reason people are late to work and/or have to leave work
early so they do not get home too late, and this allows many people to not be
paid as much as they could have been. Plus, traffic is generally just seen as a
huge waste of time that could have been used in a more productive manner, and
when it boils down to it time is money. Also, traffic is very inefficient on
fuel. With fuel prices rising, it would be in the best interest of a car owner
to avoid sitting in traffic. Self-driving cars will also have a very beneficial
economic gain for old people, who would not be able to drive anymore, and
sensory-impaired people. Self-driving cars would allow them to be transported
to any place they wish to be transported to with no risk to the public. It
would allow them to not have to pay for alternative ways of transporting themselves
instead they could rely on a set price every time. Self-driving cars could be
extremely economically efficient for the average car owner in America and a
much better economical option than regular cars.

            Self-driving cars pose an extreme
amount of upside to the future of America. Their innovative technology and
potential economic gains makes it obvious that this is the better form of
driving. Most importantly, self-driving cars will save lives by greatly
reducing accidents. Overall, it simply does not make sense to allow manual
driven cars to be on the road anymore, when we will have far superior
technology.