Self-Driving Shenanigans

Technology is constantly evolving with an emphasis on making life more convenient and helping certain chores become less time-consuming. Self-driving cars are one of these technologies and it’s easy to see the ways in which you could benefit from them. You could be dropped off at work and the car could park itself, you would no longer need a designated driver on those late-night celebrations, there would be no need to get angry at someone who didn’t indicate and you could spend your time productively as you were chauffeured to your destination. Such simple changes that provide a whole new way of living, and yet there are still a few hurdles to cross before its initiation – on top of the fact that the technology has not been perfected.

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With both self-driving cars and humans on the roads, the legal issue of who is responsible for a crash comes into question – should the passenger or the software be blamed and who pays for the damages? Just recently, Google’s self-driving car was the cause of an accident for the first time – all previous incidents occurred when a driver took over its automated system (Kantrowitz, 2016). According to a report by Google, the car “believed the bus would stop or slow down” but the driver did neither of these actions (which is perfectly acceptable) and therefore it made contact with the vehicle. In the future, new laws will have to be implemented to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers as well as eliminating any grey areas; a similar thing is occurring now with drones due to its increased use and popularity. To bring this back to my project, I’ll take a look into the legislation that is currently in place and what other laws they may have to take into account when autonomous cars are more wide-spread.

Another aspect of self-driving cars that needs to be addressed is the potential for cyber-terrorism. Anyone who has seen I, Robot may have a well-founded reason to be afraid of autonomous technology, but what happens when an autonomous vehicle is hacked not by an artificial intelligence, but by a terrorist? Cars could be be forced off the road, driven into crowds of people or made to crash into a building. Hackers have a knack for adapting to new technologies and those developing these vehicles must be aware of these possibilities while they design their cars.

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Google has used a series of car models for its road-testing including the Toyota Prius and Audi TT, but now their fleet mainly consists of prototypes and modified Lexus SUVs. However, Google is not the only company looking into the self-driving market; Volvo has planned to release 100 autonomous cars by 2017 that will be used by actual customers in Sweden (ONE News, 2016). As part of my research on self-driving cars, I will look at our car culture and compare it to how it may look in the future. If no one is driving the car, high-powered engines become unnecessary for the everyday trip and driving itself becomes a hobby rather than an expectation. So then will certain brands still grant passengers a level of status? Will a drivers licence no longer be a rite of passage? Will there be groups opposed to this autonomous driving? It will be interesting to see how our culture changes through time towards this technology and whether it is possible that one day driving will be limited to sports racing.

Reference List:
Kantrowitz, A. (2016), Watch This Sad Bus Driver Get Hit By A Driverless Car and Realize He Can Only Blame Technology, Buzzfeed. Accessed at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/watch-googles-self-driving-car-hit-a-bus#.hfGOxpQK3q
– ONE News (2016), ‘Eyes OFF the road’: Driverless car experiment to send a whole new message, TVNZ. Accessed at: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/eyes-off-road-driverless-car-experiment-send-whole-new-message

6 thoughts on “Self-Driving Shenanigans

  1. Every time a new technology is discovered that has unforeseeable benefits/consequences, immediately it is glared at in a negative light – as Chris said about the phone, the internet but the big thing is computers. Hackers have been around for many years, beginning with lock pickers in ancient times, and they’re extremely good at what they do – if a hacker can hack a computer they can hack anything with code. I think it’d be interesting to look into the particular type of code used for self driving cars, it’d be crazy and probably very uncommon. I’m of the belief that self driving cars are going to be an extremely niche market, where old people or incapacitated people are able to use operate them without a license. Because you can bet your ass I’m not giving up driving a fast manual car, it’s way too fun.

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  2. Relative to the future of car culture, the concept of private ownership of cars may ultimately become obsolete with the cost of cars being 17 per cent of an average American’s annual income, and self driving cars becoming theoretically that of shared taxi service (Niel, D. 2015). Additionally another issue to look regarding damages, is whether or not autonomy should be legislated to kill that of the driver or pedestrians in an unavoidable crash, minimising the loss of life through sacrificing the occupants of the car or protecting the individuals while killing the pedestrians (arXiv, 2015).

    Reference:

    Niel, D. (2015) Private car ownership is on the road to becoming a rarity, Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch.com, viewed 21.03.16

    arXiv (2015) Why Self Driving Cars Must Be Programmed To Kill, MIT Technology Review, viewed 20.03.16

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  3. You’ve certainly raised a number of highly concerning problems that I hadn’t thought of in relation to autonomous technologies, and also hit upon an important aspect of cyberculture studies: how will advancing technologies change human behaviour? It seems as if self-driving technology has the potential to totally disrupt cultural tropes, such as complaining about peak-hour traffic, long car rides and school zones, while also creating new challenges for insurance companies e.g. no need to buy personal vehicle insurance (which could destroy a billion dollar industry) if you can blame your crash on the manufacturer or software company (http://www.forbes.com/sites/federicoguerrini/2015/06/11/soon-your-self-driving-car-could-save-you-from-paying-for-insurance/#325ff5d92593). All this discussion might be a little premature however. If the uptake on safe, fun consumer technologies by early adopters is slow e.g. VR, then the apprehension from the early and late adopters (where the money is to be made) might not allow self-driving vehicles to flourish for a long time.

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  4. I remember once watching some clip about a proposed city plan akin to driverless cars, where they eliminated cars altogether and included pods attached to fixed circuits. Everyone would have their own pod, that would take them home and to work and everywhere in-between. It was a strange hybrid of public and private technology, since the pod would not be yours, but you would be the one controlling it more or less. I found these links which are quite similar to what I had seen, and are quire similar to autonomous cars.
    http://home.bt.com/tech-gadgets/tech-news/is-this-self-driving-pod-the-future-of-public-transport-11364004242495
    https://nextcity.org/features/view/driverless-cars-future-cities-milton-keynes

    You have a lot to grapple in this topic, driverless cars are a very interesting topic with many layers to the discussion. These kind of advances are all to make our lives as easy and simple as possible, and they will achieve that I believe. The question is should they. Do we really need a car to drive us everywhere? I can see many benefits for it, particularly for disabled people. And I can see the negative, eliminating a very vital workforce we currently have in truck drivers and deliverymen. I think you are on the right track with discussing the laws and legislation, but also focusing on the impacts these cars will have on us and our quality of life.

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  5. You have brought up some really great points regarding self driving cars that i had never though of before! The idea of terrorists hacking into cars and causing havoc has never crossed my mind but seems like a real and significant issue. I also had never really thought about self driving cars and the effect it would have on car culture. Generally when new technology emerges there always seems to be an instinctual aversion to it that eventually will dissipate. But seeing how cars and driving cars is such a big cultural activity for so many people, it’s hard to imagine a world where people have let go their love of manual driving in place of a self-driving car.

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  6. When ever the topic of a self driving car has been brought up, I don’t think I’ve ever once heard an argument about what if someone hacks into the car. As the current cars that most of us drive can’t be hacked into, it isn’t a problem that we have had to think about, however it is quickly becoming one. It would be interesting to see how, self driving cars handle being in an environment that is dominated by manual drivers. Rather than the cars computer being able to navigate with other cars computers to avoid crashes etc, they are going to have to deal with human instinctive actions which isn’t something I don’t think we have the capabilities of coding yet.

    The hacker in this video was able to build his own self hacking car, which is scary to think about. If he is able to build his own car, how easily could he hack into another self driving car? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTrgRYa2wbI

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