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The Pros and Cons of Self Driving Cars

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Twenty years ago, if someone told you that self-driving vehicles would be driving us around on our roads, you would not have believed it. However, now this innovation does not seem as implausible.

An autonomous car, also known as a self-driving car, is a vehicle that is engineered to operate without human interaction. In recent years, automobile companies have been improving cars to make them more advanced and automated. As technology advances, it is no surprise that driverless vehicles would soon be on the roads as a common replacement to traditional cars. In fact, Singapore as already started rolling out pilot testing phase where the entire western part of the country – including Nanyang Technological University – has become a testing ground for autonomous vehicles (Abdullah, 2020).

It is no doubt that the move from human driven to driverless cars is going to have a significant impact on society.

One obvious benefit that come with autonomous vehicles is the increase in safety. Approximately 1.35 million people die each year due to road traffic accidents (World Health Organisation, 2020). Researchers from US Department of Transportation estimate that fully autonomous vehicles will be able to reduce traffic fatalities by up to 94 percent by eliminating accidents that occur due to reckless driving or human error (Maddox, 2018). It may be difficult for a human to decide fast whether to veer right or left when a collision is about to happen. However, for a driverless car that is powered by advanced technology and has run thousands of simulations before hitting the roads, the safest route can be instantly chosen, avoiding any crash (Andrew, 2018). Furthermore, reducing such incidents will result in less traffic congestion and better use of healthcare facilities for other areas of medical care.

Autonomous vehicles also bring about convenience to the public. While many find pleasure in driving, spending hours for daily commute and having to drive long distances can become tedious to some. With a driverless car doing the driving, passengers are now able to engage in more productive tasks while commuting. This innovation comes as a huge time-saver for everyone.

Singapore’s involvement with autonomous vehicles has been extensive and one of the reasons is because it wants to help its aging society. Subodh Mhaisalkar, the professor in charge of Nanyang’s Energy Research Institute, mentions that having such technology available is extremely beneficial when the need to provide mobility for seniors arise (Jamshed, 2019). The country has also been exploring the application of self-driving technology to public transportation in order to bring in new additions when it comes to shared mobility and at the same time, address the constraints faced with regards to land and manpower (Smart Nation Singapore, n.d.).

Additionally, most of the autonomous vehicles today are more or less fully electric. These cars use significantly less gas and energy when on the roads, as compared to a human-driven vehicle. Most fuel is burned due to speeding and braking excessively and driverless vehicles are engineered to eliminate these factors out which results to less air pollution. Moreover, driverless cars also mean fewer cars per household. One vehicle is now able get family members to all the different destinations and park itself until it is time to pick them back up again (Andrew, 2018). This cuts down the number of cars on the road and redundant overlapping trips, which in return, reduces the amount of emissions being released into the atmosphere. Hence, autonomous vehicles also benefits the environment, especially when it comes to energy consumption.

Looking at recent news on how the whole world has been shaken by the global pandemic – COVID-19, the implementation of autonomous vehicles has certainly been a topic of interest. With the infectious disease keeping many housebound, it has accelerated the opportunity and need for automation in almost every industry, including autonomous driving. In fact, in China, companies like Neolix have already been capitalising on contactless delivery services with driverless vehicles to drop of food, groceries and other essentials (Lekach, 2020). It is no doubt that in the future coming out of COVID-19, autonomous vehicles will dealt with a positive outlook, especially in times of need. Such vehicles have many desirable applications particularly for a global crisis, as helpful alternative when it comes to delivering food and medicine or even transporting people while maintaining social distance.

However with its benefits, comes its potential drawbacks. As much as driverless vehicles bring about positive impact to the society, we cannot neglect the barriers to its adoption.

One downside when it comes to self-driving cars is its price. The systems that are foundational to highly motivated vehicles, namely sensors, radar and communication devices – are costly compared to the older vehicles (Nunes and Hernandez, 2019). Therefore, due to the advanced technology put in place for autonomous vehicles, they are bound to be very expensive. However, technology has been said to grow cheaper when it is available to the public for a longer time. Perhaps, in due course, driverless cars may become something the masses can afford.

Another potential drawback for autonomous vehicles is its high dependence on technology. Driverless vehicles rely heavily on the combination of both hardware and software in order to function. However, this may be a fallback as there is always the potential for unexpected glitches to occur despite successful programming. Even a minor malfunction can cause a huge failure and result in a major accident. Hence, it is possible that such errors can cause the dependence in technology to backfire and promote unsafe deployments and increased accidents (Prince, 2015).

As how a driverless vehicle does not completely eliminate the likelihood of a traffic accident, adverse weather conditions also pose as an extra level of difficulty. An autonomous vehicle may not be able to operate at a high level of safety in all weather conditions. A lot of work is required for an autonomous vehicle to safely maneuver under harsh weather conditions.

In such conditions, it is possible that slippery roads, hydroplaning, water build-up and malfunctioning sensors will pose as a problem (Janakiraman, 2019). Therefore, the concept of autonomous technology is still lacking in the capability to be fully functioning in all environments.

In addition, owning an autonomous vehicle means allowing a third party to track your movements. Driverless technology involves self-learning techniques which are centered around the obtaining of location-based data and other sensitive information. It is highly possible for hackers to hack the network and get into any vehicle’s software, taking control of its operation (Prince, 2015). Hence, this poses as a major security and privacy concern to many.

With the rise of autonomous technology also comes the loss of jobs. There are many people who operate vehicles for a living, such as, taxi drivers, delivery riders and truck drivers. With the implementation of driverless vehicles, we will also have to be prepared for the consequence of several jobs being lost. This may in turn lead to an increase in unemployment rate.

All in all, there have been huge developments in the field of driverless technology and the move towards it seem inevitable given the huge benefits it brings about. Given the potential it has to greatly impact the lives of people, autonomous vehicles may just become a new wave in society. However, it also presents many complications and concerns. It is important to ensure solutions or mitigations to the these challenges have been addressed for the technology to be fully adopted by the public. 

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The Pros And Cons Of Self Driving Cars. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from
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