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Panicco

Elliot Panicco
Professor Malcolm Campbell
UWRT 1103
28 April 2015
Sit Back, Relax, and Let the Future Take the Wheel
Cars have always been an interest of mine, from the way that they
look, sound and drive. Just going out to drive is something that I really enjoy
even if I am not driving to go somewhere. Unfortunately, my driving days are
numbered due to the recent advancements in autonomous cars. Autonomous
cars are cars that drive without guidance from humans. They use cameras
mounted on the top, front, sides, and rear of the car as well as sensors and
GPS to maneuver around traffic. Research and testing has proven that
autonomous cars are safer drivers than humans and that they are also
friendlier to the environment. Although both of these benefits of autonomous
cars are very important in todays society, much more difficult questions still
linger as the race for the first consumer autonomous car continues. When
can we expect the first autonomous car to be made? Is the general public
open to computers driving them around instead of taking the wheel
themselves? Will the general public be able to afford these cars?
All of these questions are important because cars have become an
essential part of our everyday life. Zack Kanter, CEO of an automotive parts
distribution company, goes into depth on how autonomous cars will affect
our lives in both positive and negative ways, starting now in 2015. Tesla, an

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electric car company, will roll out their 2015 models equipped with the
technology to drive autonomously 90% of the time. Google has been working
on an autonomous car of their own and they, as well as Tesla, say that in
2020 autonomous cars will be fully functional and available to the public
(Kanter). Traditionally, as a country, we have been open to technology
changing our lives in order to make things easier. The smart phone only took
a few years for the first person to own one to just about everyone not being
able to stop using them for a few seconds. The same goes for television,
radio, computers; the list goes on. Autonomous cars could be the first major
innovation in technology that takes a while for the general public to get used
to. The benefits of self-driving cars are clear: extra sleep in the car on the
way to work and owning only one car for the whole family because it can
drive and pick up everyone and take them where they need to be. Fewer cars
means less fuel and less money spent; carbon emissions would be drastically
reduced as well, decreasing overall emissions by almost 16%. While all of
these things are great, less than a third of Americans said that they would
choose an autonomous car over a traditional vehicle (Kanter). The problem is
not a question of performance, but rather a question of trust. Do we trust
computers to make the right decisions at the right time? Do we trust the
computers more than we trust ourselves? Do we trust computers with our
lives? These are the questions that we as a society are struggling with and
will continue to struggle with until the brave one third of Americans test out
the self-driving cars when they hit the public.

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Autonomous cars are not just for major car companies or large
corporations. Autonomous cars right now are merely a science experiment
hoping to make it big in the real world. A few college students from Carnegie
Mellon University saw this as an opportunity and did a science experiment of
their own. Urmson and Whittaker were able to build an autonomous car with
the use of only a GPS, laser, and radar. Combining all of these elements and
a used Chevy Tahoe named Boss they were able to successfully send the
car down a test track. The test track had only cars and no traffic signals or
signs. The GPS was used to keep the car in its lane and the laser and radar
were used to tell where other cars were in relation to it (Urmson). This
project is not trying to make the perfect autonomous car because so many
pieces are missing. However it shows us that maybe the best way to go for
now is to create a package sold separately from the car that can drive your
car autonomously for most of the time. Cheap and effective is what the
general public wants right now and until high tech cameras and software can
be mass produced, we may be looking at an after market product for our
cars. Whether or not it is in the car or attached to the car, who is responsible
for the car? Who determines what the car does and how it performs? The
hardest questions that we face are those that deal with ethics and the fate of
ourselves and others in these cars. Everyone has a different opinion on this
topic and we need to get this right before anything autonomous is put into
cars.

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The director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California


Polytechnic State University has an idea that could help people get into
autonomous cars. Patrick Lin, PhD, discusses the hard questions that car
manufacturers are avoiding at the moment. He poses the traditional trolley
problem: if the car is traveling and is about to hit and kill five people and
the only way to save them is to swerve and hit and kill one person, what do
you do? Just letting the car hit and kill five people is wrong but choosing to
swerve and kill the one person is a clear act of murder. This problem has no
clear answer. In the case of autonomous cars, the computer is making these
decisions. However, what if we as consumers could turn a dial and tell the
computer to make a certain type of choice in a similar situation? Dr. Lin calls
this an ethics setting. The ethics setting could be set to protect the
passenger in all situations or it could even be set to cause the least amount
of harm even if that means killing the passenger. This sounds like a good
idea because 44% of people would want an ethics setting and only 12%
would want the manufacturer to have only one setting (Lin). However, having
this setting could set many people up to look like killers. Computers are very
precise with their actions and would execute their determined task almost
100% of the time, and if that means choosing the passengers life over
another, then it could look as murder. The passenger made a decision not
then and there, but earlier stating that his or her life is more important than
anyone elses. It is almost impossible to decide whether one life is more
important than another because all life is so precious. Lin tells us that even

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though we have the technology and the means to make autonomous cars an
everyday reality, we have not answered all of the questions that are needed
to make autonomous cars a safe everyday decision for Americans.
Ronald Bailey, published author with a B.A. in philosophy and
economics, has another approach to the ethics and responsibility of
autonomous cars. Bailey takes a much more laid back approach to the
situation, relying on the safety of autonomous cars. Google has reported that
with over 700,000 miles of autonomous driving, only one crash has been
reported, which was another vehicle rear-ending the Google self-driving car
(Bailey). This statistic is very impressive considering we are only in the early
stages of self-driving technology. Human error is the cause of 90% of all
traffic accidents and removing these errors with autonomous cars could save
over 30,000 lives and over 200 billion dollars a year (Bailey). Autonomous
cars are not perfect and will crash eventually, but as of now they look much
safer than the average human driver. They cannot get distracted with
phones or get fatigued after a long day. Small errors in code will of course be
made and can be easily fixed. Because of this we still need to be ready for
what will happen when autonomous accidents actually happen. A study at
RAND Corporation tells us how a no-fault liability system could be put in
place. This means each partys insurance company would cover the damage
in the crash (Bailey). This is a great idea assuming that everyone has car
insurance but we all know that that is not the case. RAND was able to come
up with another solution to the problem by making each driver responsible

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for his or her vehicle. With this in mind, a car or person at fault could be
determined using the cameras and data that the car uses in order to
navigate the road (Bailey). Autonomous cars are safer than they seem and
are potentially much safer than human drivers. Once the general population
starts to trust the autonomous car and they become mainstream and
autonomous cars will start to hit the road, or will they? Trusting self-driving
cars is one thing, having the resources to make them and money to buy
them is a completely different story.
Chuck Tannert, a self employed writer on automotive technologies,
talks a bout the barriers for getting autonomous cars into the publics hands.
Here is what he has to say about the costs that go into an autonomous car:
Car Affordability Study says that the average American can only
afford to spend $20,806 on a car. The featured Prius, which starts
at around $24,000, is optioned up with a $75,000 to $80,000
Velodyne LIDAR system, visual and radar sensors estimated to
cost about $10,000, and a nearly $200,000 GPS array. Not to
mention the cost of the driving computer and software. Put into
context: The staid-looking Toyota Prius Mahan "drove" around in
the video costs more than a Ferrari 599. (Tannert)
Clearly the average family cannot afford a new Ferrari, making it an almost
unmarketable car for the general public. Fortunately this is the car that
Google uses to collect data and test all of their new sensors for their
autonomous car project. Once Google finds what works and what doesnt, a

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mass production of parts will happen driving the price down. Tannert predicts
that in 2025 the price of an autonomous car will be only $10,000 more than
the same vehicle without the autonomous capability. Ten years after that it
will only be $3,000 extra for a self-driving car (Tannert). Even then not many
people have thousands of dollars lying around to spend on a vehicle. At the
same time the price of these cars will not go down unless there is a demand.
The same that happened with trusting the cars is happening with buying
them. There will be a group of people who have the money and the interest
to make these cars a success. Once the real data from these drivers comes
in, more people will start buying the cars and as a result the price of the cars
will go down, causing more people to buy these cars. Until this happens
companies are trying to drive the price down in surprisingly different ways.
Google is trying to minimize the price of the vehicle by putting all of
their sensors in the car and centered in one box, making the software more
simple and easy to access for updates and repair. It will also bring the weight
of the car down in order to increase fuel efficiency. Elon Musk at Tesla says
that having a senor based safety system is too expensive and it will not be
cheap enough for the general public. Instead Tesla is going with an optical
approach. They are putting cameras in the car with software in order to
detect cars, pedestrians and other obstacles in order to keep the car out of
harms way. Mobileye, a company in the Netherlands has a completely
different approach. They are focused on using the cheapest materials
possible to drive the car, even if it means not being able to drive

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autonomously 100% of the time. Their goal in the long run is to have cheap
cars that can drive themselves most of the time while still having humans
take the wheel for more complicated maneuvers (Tannert). Driving the price
down for self-driving cars is important for the public, but the public may not
even be owning cars in the future, taxi services and busing systems might be
the way of the future.
The simple act of taking drivers out of our cars and replacing them
with automated computers will have far greater impacts than just sleeping
on the way to work. The idea of car ownership could be non-existent in the
near future. Cars would no longer need to park, once they drop someone off
at work they could drive and take another person to school, just like a taxi
service. Using a taxi service like this could decrease the cost of car
transportation by 75%. Also 10% of urban land could be freed up because
parking lots could be turned into buildings or parks (Bailey). Zack Kanter is
able to go a little bit deeper on this idea of autonomous taxis. Kanter tells us
that Uber, a taxi service, is very interested in autonomous cars and what
they can do for the company. This is because the drivers receive 75% of the
fare that the passenger pays. Once Uber replaces every driver with an
autonomous car, they could replace every taxicab in New York with only
9,000 Uber cars. Fares would only be $0.50 a mile and, with the efficiency of
autonomous cars, people would wait for less than a minute for a car to pick
them up (Kanter). If every car in the U.S. was autonomous, then the amount
of vehicles in operation would go from 245 million to just over 2 million,

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eliminating 99% of all cars on the road. Unfortunately not every effect that
autonomous cars will have will be positive. Because driving will no longer be
a profession, nearly 10 million people will be laid off. While this statistic is
staggering and will hit the economy hard, the list of benefits goes on. Those
who are now bound to their house due to old age will have a new freedom.
They can go to the store and to see family and friends with the use of
autonomous cars (Kanter). All of these effects of autonomous cars are
profound. They will transform our economy and the very way that we live,
but just like with every other innovation in technology we will adjust and be a
better society because of it.
Autonomous cars are closer than we think. In a few years time, we will
all have ridden in one, and in ten years time, we will ride in one every where
we go. It will take a while for people to get used to the idea of letting a
computer make decisions for us, but soon enough it will be normal to get into
a self-driving car and not think twice about it. Responsibility of autonomous
cars still is open for debate, but I have a feeling that we will cross that bridge
once an accident happens and not before hand. Taxi services will be the way
to travel and car ownership will be a thing of the past. We have been flying
40,000 feet in the air on autopilot for decades now and it is finally time to
take that idea to the streets.. So many questions are still out there waiting to
be answered. Who will own these cars? How much will they cost? Are they
safe? Will cars be allowed once self-driving cars are apart of everyday life or
will they become illegal because a human driver is too dangerous? Nobody

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truly knows until they are put into the market and used by real consumers.
Tests and speculations can only go so far. The only way to find out whether or
not autonomous cars will really work is when a person gets in one and takes
their first ride. I myself am willing to do this because it will happen eventually
and I say the sooner the better. I have dreamed of these cars since I was a
child and I cannot wait until they become a reality. All I ask is that I can still
enjoy a nice ride down the back roads with my manual transmission car
because that is one thing that I am not ready to say goodbye too.

Works Cited
Bailey, Ronald. "The Moral Case For Self-Driving Cars." Reason 46.4 (2014): 18. Points of View
Reference Center. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Kanter, Zack. "How Ubers Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs And Reshape The
Economy by 2025." CBS SF Bay Area. CBS, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
Lin, Patrick. "Here's a Terrible Idea: Robot Cars with Adjustable Ethics Settings." Wired. Conde
Nast Digital, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Tannert, Chuck. "Will You Ever Be Able To Afford A Self-Driving Car?" Fast Company.
Mansueto Ventures, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Urmson C, and W Whittaker. Self-Driving Cars and the Urban Challenge. Ieee Intelligent
Systems. 23.2 (2008): 66-68. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.