Editorial: Programming the Future

cars

            I don’t believe that there should be driverless cars in the future. As much as I distrust the judgement of all humans in cars, I distrust technology that flawed humans have created even more. Similar to doing a multi-step math equation, once you round a number and use the imperfect answer as a staple in calculating other variables, the margin of error grows.

            My first point of contention with the issue is faulty equipment. No matter how many prototypes car companies make, the next better than its predecessor, nothing can ever reach perfection. There is no guarantee that the final product will be able to make the right judgement calls in a million different situations, especially if humans can’t. The reason there are so many car accidents is because we make mistakes. We fall asleep at the wheel, get distracted, and take risks without weighing the consequences of our actions. Driverless cars may not have the issue of a sleepy operator but there are other risks. What if there is a malfunction in a certain model of driverless car? A company won’t be able to recall the cars without the industry being heavily investigated, discrediting it, losing jobs and losing money in the process- hurting everyone involved. There will inevitably be some issues with the cars and when they appear, the repercussions will do more damage than any positive influence that the industry had.  

            Secondly, there are many ways humans are taught how to read different situations on the road. There are things we see that a machine may not. Children playing on the side of street looking ready to dart? If the child is out of the car’s line of sight, it won’t know to slow down and the person in the car won’t be able to do anything about a situation they could have prevented if they’d had control over the car. What if the driver has to swerve out of the way for a college student that foolishly walked across the street without looking? There are only so many things a car can do to avoid hitting something or someone. The most effective are precautionary measures taken by a capable driver that is able to read a situation and prepare for the worst. Take for example the Miami student. The driver prepares by slowing down in anticipation of students who aren’t paying attention. A driver’s compensation for the pedestrians lack of consideration is what keeps most of the students alive on Miami’s campus. If “townies” didn’t know where to slow down, students wouldn’t be able to continue crossing the street in the careless way they do right now without the “getting hit by a car” rate skyrocketing. Let me ask you this: How is a machine supposed to anticipate the decisions of college students when the college students don’t even mull over them for more than a split second? The commonality between the drivers and the students is humanity. We have enough experience to anticipate what they’re going to do because, let’s be honest, we’ve all cut it too close when crossing the street. A machine doesn’t have that experience, nor does it have the capacity to understand those types of situations.

            Finally, in a world that is obviously becoming more reliant upon and educated in technology, car hacking is a very real issue with driverless cars. One argument people could have against car hacking is that people have always been at risk of others overpowering them and stealing their car, which is true. However, when a car is being stolen in person the victim has a variety of options. They can call the police, run away if the thief is armed, or even fight the person (if they’re feeling spunky enough). With car hacking, it’s such a sneaky form of crime that the person in the driverless car has no power over anything. If you are in a car that is being hacked you can’t just jump out. What if it’s on a highway? A mountain? Chestnut St. during rush hour? There’s no way for the passenger(s) to get to safety. As a side note, there’s also the possibility of government cars and vehicles carrying important shipments being hacked. This could lead to the wrong people possessing dangerous knowledge or even weapons. There are no limits in the cyber-world; anything is accessible.

            Driverless cars should not become a normal part of our world. There are too many variables when it comes to safely operating multi-ton machines that a programmed computer chip can’t account for. I barely trust other drivers on the road, let alone the technology that they’ve made. There’s simply too much room for error and too many lives at stake to take this technologically advanced step in the future.