Jordan McGillis recently wrote an article for NRO about the advantages of self-driving cars. While I share some of his views about possible improvements in traffic safety, the idea of fundamentally changing our relationship with cars is one that I find repugnant.
As happens about 100 times every day in America, the driver of a car had caused a fatal crash. Due to distraction, intoxication, incompetence, malice or just plain incompetence, human drivers caused crashes that resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 people in the United States last year, the highest number of road deaths on record. more than a decade according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics. As 2021 creeps up, the cumulative number of Americans killed by vehicles has climbed to over 4 million since we first put cars on our roads more than a century ago. In 94 percent of road crashes, NHTSA says, drivers are at fault.
Self-driving cars offer hope that this seemingly endless series of tragedies may come to an end (or something close to it). Where human drivers are naturally subject to physical and psychological frailty, self-driving cars are immune.
These numbers are tragic. However, figuratively removing people from the driver’s seat cannot be the answer.
Giant metal structures zooming by at around 70 miles per hour are inherently dangerous, some would say gloriously. But the driver must always be the primary controller of the vehicle’s progress. She decides when to return, how fast to go and the route she will take. Safety technology like lane-keeping assist, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control are predictable, all the more so because they greatly reduce the driver flaws that Jordan points out.
My car can mitigate the damage of a crash for me through crumple zones and braking. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping ensure that driving through Iowa is less tiring. Blind spot monitoring and backup alerts prevent us from harming others behind or near us. And each of these technologies revolves around the driver, not the other way around.
Driving is independence, and the idea of forced respect for the mind of a machine is abhorrent. I’ll decide how I want to take a corner, how fast to accelerate and make my way to the cottage up north – slowing down to take in the creeks and views at my leisure. If I wanted to travel passively, I would take a bus or a train. Imagine having a mandatory self-drive in a Hellcat. . . hey!
To remove the act of piloting from the driver is to pass the responsibility to another entity. If a crash happens, I’d like the responsible person to be present instead of having to call a Palo Alto toll-free number to complain that I had a fender-bender with someone sitting in one of the cars that they ran the company themselves. car. Ambiguity in responsibility is the best way to avoid it.
But I’m not a Luddite. Self-driving would be an attractive option for a long trip out West and would allow people with disabilities a previously unknown freedom of movement.
Being a driver in New Mexico was a bummer, because one’s eyes don’t have to take their eyes off the road to capture the great wonder. Activating autopilot to take a photo would be great – but only as an option, not a paternalistic requirement.
Driving is dangerous, yes. Not to be common, but living is dangerous. We have many technologies that improve traffic safety without involving a replacement for the human driver. So I’ll go over the safety and mandatory proliferation of self-driving cars.