Risks Of Autonomous Driving
Autonomous Driving – The Idea
Everywhere in the media these days, there are reports outlining a new idea: “I no longer have to drive myself!”.
The future of autonomous vehicles is imminent! A good idea? It sounds tempting: the driver could devote himself to pleasant things, and he wouldn’t even have to be able to drive anymore.
Undoubtedly, an autonomous vehicle would enable many people to take part in individual transport, regardless of whether they can drive a car. Older adults and people with temporary or permanent disabilities could go from your front door to wherever they wish. Participation in social life and culture, a visit to the theater, a necessary, regular visit to the doctor, all of this would hardly depend on the person’s state of health or their ability.
But even if they could drive themselves, people would still benefit greatly. The daily commute, which for some means a long drive, with its tension, traffic jams and daily struggle on the freeway, could become a productive or relaxing time. Hanging out on the internet or catching up on some sleep would be possible. Wonderful! The burden of commuting suddenly gets the quality of life.
The Chance Of More Freedom When Driving
We firmly believe that the idea is to give people time, freedom and participation or to give them back.
Now, this idea also has a commercial side. Taxi services would no longer need to calculate costs for drivers, and logistics companies could build and operate delivery units that would not have to take the driver’s needs or working time regulations into account. The idea is to develop logistics companies into an always-available project with drastically reduced personnel costs.
But autonomous cars could change the world in entirely different places: who says that machines only have to drive like people used to? Couldn’t they be faster and avoid traffic jams by, for example, cooperating, making better use of the roads, and moving optimally in terms of energy consumption? The vision is a swarm of autonomous vehicles that always form an optimal and optimizing traffic flow. The idea behind this is to find an answer to the increasingly urgent problems of private transport: people are a nuisance, and their behavior makes it challenging to achieve the rational optimum of traffic flows.
The Dream Of Efficiency In Private Transport
This describes the idea of setting up traffic and goods flows in a cost-saving and efficient manner by freeing the person from this task.
Every idea now offers risks and opportunities, which will be no different with autonomous driving. These depend on what “autonomous” means, i.e. how the driver and his surroundings experience mobility with autonomous vehicles. There are various classifications for this, which will be examined in a later article. For the ideas developed here, it should initially be sufficient to assume, as a model, that in the autonomous vehicle, the driver is only a passenger and does not have the need, or possibly not the possibility, to intervene in the driving maneuver.
Let’s look at the possible negative consequences of these visions. To do this, you have to be aware that, as a consequence, the car, and thus an automaton, becomes the active decision-maker. Especially at the beginning of the autonomous age, these machines will interact with cyclists, pedestrians, and human-driven vehicles in traffic. Autonomous cars must therefore move in an environment shaped by human behaviour and know how to deal with misconduct and human error.
Is It Only Humans who Make Mistakes?
It corresponds to the current zeitgeist to classify humans as faulty or unreliable.
In many industries, the buzzword AI is causing movement. A so-called artificial intelligence is trusted to make decisions, initiate actions and thus penetrate domains that previous computer programs were denied. Social networks, medical technology or surveillance technology, are examples that use AI or are researching it. Proponents speak of “support” of humans, and critics talk of “replacement”.
Briefly and succinctly, we are talking about the idea that the automaton could be the better human (for specific tasks) so that humans can do more human things.
Whichever way you look at it, this results in a need for action for lawyers: up to now, the legislators could assume that people act and act among themselves. Now that could be vending machines too. Do the laws still fit? Perhaps we are taking a high risk if, without taking special precautions in terms of technology, infrastructure, law and society, we act as if we could at least partially replace people “just like that”. Where does “replace” even begin?
In addition to the technical challenge, nobody can say how people will react to autonomous machines today. Some studies show both an over-confidence in technology and a strongly negative attitude. The introduction of autonomous vehicles must therefore be done with care if you do not want to expose technology and society to the risk of being overwhelmed.
Speaking Of Technology
Technology has flaws, so it is conceivable that autonomous cars endanger people on the road. Some opinions, however, argue that humans are the number one uncertainty factor and that machines ultimately help to reduce the number of accident fatalities further. In any case, one is very careful with the security aspects of autonomous driving so that the opportunity does not become a danger. And then there is the software bias. Autonomous cars will need a lot of software, and it is constantly discussed that these cars communicate with each other and their environment. This makes them vulnerable to hackers and manipulating forces. The topic of information security is becoming increasingly important in this context. So it would be essential to stick to the idea that man does not become dependent on a technology (including life and limb) that can be manipulated by other people or produced incorrectly.
Ensuring this requires more than just technical and security considerations. Societal and legal issues require careful attention as well. Then and only then will it be possible to minimize the risks and use the opportunities in the ideas described here.