In my previous post I had provided a brief introduction to the concept of autonomous cars and the physical/fictional realities in which they exist. Within this, I covered a short history on the development of technologies stemming from Davinci’s Self-Driving Cart, towards modern autonomous vehicles such as Teslas. The existence of autonomous cars within science fiction was also discussed through texts such as iRobot, Knight Rider, and Transformers. After this contextual information was provided, I then proceeded to introduce the dominating theme of my digital artefact as three perspectives toward the technology including that of early adopters, the concerned public, and car enthusiasts.
On the early adopter perspective, I was able to find several arguments for the use of autonomous vehicles. One specific document sourced from global architecture and engineering firm, IBI Group, discussed the potential urban effects of autonomous vehicles in cities. Through this course of this report, IBI presented both an analysis of the current traffic safety/urban planning realities in Canada and the USA, and the potential benefits that autonomous vehicles may have to solve these issues. These benefits included:
- On-demand transport decreasing vehicle ownership, thus reducing congestion.
- The potential to eliminate/reduce the severity of 90% of traffic related fatalities.
- Land that was previously used for parking could be re-purposed for other uses such as housing.
- Commute time can be used more effectively, allowing people to work on the go for example (Mereu, 2017).
Even though this report is centralised around US based statistics, Australian statistics reflect a similar reality with the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services presenting that over 90% of all accidents are caused by human error in some form (Roads and Maritime Services, 2014).
Another argument for the early adopter perspective is the increased mobility of those with disabilities. This argument was reflected by Polonetski (2016) who claimed that autonomous vehicles have the potential to ultimately increase the mobility of those with disabilities and halt the decline in their employment rate in allowing them to travel with ease. A paper produced by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) has greatly supported Polonetski’s argument in revealing that “two million employment opportunities could be opened up, and $19 billion in annual healthcare expenditures could be saved, if people with disabilities had access to the basic transportation needs that could be provided by autonomous vehicles” (Claypool, Bin-Nun, & Gerlach, 2017). However, the argument for increased employment does contradict one of the arguments from the concerned public perspective.
What has become increasingly clear as an argument for the concerned public is the decline in jobs as the result of autonomous vehicles. The Upstate Transportation Association, an advocate group for professional drivers, have very recently announced their fears stemmed through Uber’s testing of fully autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, with the president of the transport association claiming “It doesn’t do anything for the local economy to have driverless cars. I’m sure there’s a little bit of job creation, but nothing that will match the number of jobs lost” (Tomassi, in McFarland, 2017).
Other arguments for the concerned public perspective still remain as discussed in my previous post such as the technology being underdeveloped as seen through the case of Joshua Brown, and on a similar note, a subsequent lack of the restrictions of fully autonomous cars. The notion of ‘fully autonomous’ vehicles is also an important distinction to make, one which is highly relevant to the enthusiast perspective.
This clip from well-known car enthusiast Jay Leno raises a very interesting point that in the current reality, fully autonomous cars are not yet legal. Although the notion of ‘autopilot’ on cars has been portrayed in all of the fictional texts listed above, call the technology this is rather misleading. Tesla does in fact market many of their vehicles with an ‘autopilot’ function’, which in itself is unethical as the technology is technically a driver assist (the driver is still expected to be in control of the car). Although certain companies such as google and Honda are developing self-driving technologies, there are no production autonomous vehicles to be purchased, and again as mentioned by Leno, there are no regulations in place. However, IBI again presents a highly useful infographic on the progression of the technology and its future potential.
Jay Leno is also the ideal candidate for the enthusiast perspective, holding a multimillion dollar collection of cars, and running both a television program and YouTube series on car culture. The enthusiast perspective towards autonomous cars is a sphere that is subsequently lacking in research, and as such, this is a gap I seek to fill through personal interviews with enthusiasts. As Leno briefly mentioned, I too believe that autonomous cars will not be accepted by enthusiasts to the same degree as current vehicles, and they will more likely be treated as passenger jets, or household appliances (Leno, 2015). Thus, my artefact will pursue the same avenues of research in interviewing several car enthusiasts on their perception of the topic and presenting them with the arguments of both the early adopters, and the concerned public. However, through the feedback of my seminar presentation, I will also seek to interview a female car enthusiast on their perception in order to balance the hetero-normative nature of the modern car scene.
My research thus far has proved to be both extremely interesting and extremely broad with each topic opening new avenues to explore. I will continue to research these three dominating perspectives into autonomous cars to be presented in the podcast format. However, I have now been presented with a series of sub-topics such as the effects on employment, disability aid, technological development, and a female perspective in order to increase the depth of research within my artefact. The format of the artefact will be presented as such, in first providing a brief overview to the topic, and then analysing these three perspectives through a combination of secondary and primary (interviews) research.
2014, Driver Qualification Handbook, New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services, Sydney, New South Wales
Claypool, H, Bin-Nun, A & Gerlach, J 2017, SELF-DRIVING CARS: THE IMPACT ON PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, Securing America’s Future Energy, accessed 19th April 2017, http://secureenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Self-Driving-Cars-The-Impact-on-People-with-Disabilities_FINAL.pdf
Leno, J 2015, Jay Leno: Self-Driving Cars Aren’t REALLY Self-Driving, online video, 13th October, CNBC, viewed 19th April 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHv_SMvg8nE
McFarland, M 2017, The backlash against self-driving cars officially begins, CNN, 10th January, accessed 9th April 2017, http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/10/technology/new-york-self-driving-cars-ridesharing/
Mereu, A 2017, A Driverless Future It’s not Just About the Cars, IBI Group, accessed 9th April 2017, http://www.ibigroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IBI-THNK_CAV-Report_2017-01-25.pdf
Polonetski, J 2016, Self-Driving Cars: Transforming Mobility For The Elderly And People With Disabilities, Huffington Post, 24th October 2016, accessed 19th April 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jules-polonetsky/selfdriving-cars-transfor_b_12545726.html