Are self-driving cars soon to be a reality? If so, what will change and why?

Time magazine is known nationwide as an accredited source for world news, cutting-edge investigative reporting, and educational articles. Every week it produces well-researched periodical on news that affects the nation and the world. On March 7, 2016, the front page story focused on the progress and excitement surrounding the development of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.

They’re Here. They’re Safe. They’re Replacing You

The feature article for that week’s publication, entitled “The Increasingly Compelling Case for Why You Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Drive,” was written by Matt Vella (Time’s senior editor), and discussed the three things all drivers need to ask themselves about the reality of autonomous vehicles.

1. Question: How soon will they be conceptualized?

Answer: They already have. In the fall of 2015, Tesla motors completed a full software integration of sensors, cameras, and computer controlled GPS systems into several of their cars worldwide in order to promote semi-autonomous driving. In fact, one of their Model S cars made the trip from Los Angeles to New York in two days, whereupon the car itself was driving for close to 96 percent of the voyage (a human driver was present to take control when needed).

Furthermore, manufacturers such as General Motors and Toyota are clamoring to put out their own self-driving cars by the year 2020. So far, 34 states have begun legislation on whether self-driving vehicles should be legal forms of transportation.

2. Question: Are they safe?

Answer: They’re safer than human drivers.

The argument over safety comes down to the fact that computers have a better range of concentration than humans. No matter what particular drivers may think, humans can’t maintain control 100 percent of the time. However, a computer will never lose focus, become distracted, or allow anger, hunger, or exhaustion to affect its ability to control the vehicle. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about a computer getting drunk or accidentally pushing too hard on the gas pedal. For these reasons and sadly many more that contribute to driver error accidents, computer controlled vehicles can be much safer than manually driven vehicles.

3. Question: What will change?

Answer: Everything dealing with driving.

The ability to drive isn’t a national right, although some believe that it should be. As such, the debate over whether self-driving cars should be a mandatory safety measure for drivers may cause some heated debates. In addition, the question of liability when an accident does occur—which shouldn’t be often—will be a nightmare, requiring the assistance of an extremely seasoned accident attorney. Furthermore, the eternal controversy of freedom vs. security will inevitably be pushed to the forefront, creating political, economical, and moral fodder for protestors and politicians alike.

The Future Beckons

Although mainstream autonomous cars are still several years away from being on the market, allowing yourself to get used to the fact that they’re no longer the stuff of science-fiction may prove useful down the road…both for your safety as well as your convenience.