Autonomous cars should be embraced, not feared

[ Cartoon by Toby VanWesten] Autonomous cars are a revolution that you can't put the brakes on.
[ Cartoon by Toby VanWesten] Autonomous cars are a revolution that you can’t put the brakes on.
Autonomous, or self-driving, cars conjure up two opposing opinions in many people’s minds. On one hand, many view them as the coming of a new age in transportation evolution. On the other hand, many people are hesitant to believe a car can drive safely without a human at the helm. It is natural for humanity to be hesitant to embrace leaps in technological evolution. However, the self-driving car should not be feared, but rather embraced.

The American government has recently unveiled a 15-point system to regulate autonomous cars. These regulations, the Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles, are only preliminary but aim to encourage the auto industry to improve safety. At the same time, these regulations are meant to ensure consumers’ cars will be held to high standards. Canadians have been a bit slower in the regulation race. While lawmakers have stalled, motor vehicle companies, such as Volvo, are so confident about the technology behind their cars they have said they are willing to take complete liability in any accident where the car is proven at fault.

Safety and regulation are two areas under scrutiny. Great leaps have been made to bring those areas up to respectable and trustworthy levels, even while the technology continues to move forward at a rapid speed. The province has said autonomous cars on Ontario roads today fall under the same umbrella of rules and regulations as every other car. This is because those cars still require a driver who has the ability to take control at any moment. The current regulations are likely to stay in place until even greater advancements are made in the industry.

Those who are against self-driving cars do have valid concerns. Technology is notorious for being imperfect and this makes accepting cars without drivers worrisome. Drivers and their passengers want to be assured that in the event of an emergency, braking is not going to be an issue. While safety should always be at the forefront, non-autonomous cars aren’t exactly safe. In 2013, almost 2,000 Canadians died behind the wheel. Many of these incidents were the result of drunk driving: something that could be remedied through autonomous cars.

Since autonomous cars have moved from a sci-fi fantasy to a possibility, governments have begun imposing regulatory standards. Those against self-driving cars may point out the regulations are new and not nearly as comprehensive as human-driven cars. This will change shortly.

Historically, the public has been hesitant to embrace leaps in new technology. Look no further than the Model T. The world’s first automobile marked a change in technology, and was met with much negativity and bewilderment. While skepticism and concern over safety are only natural, to completely dismiss the technology is akin to living in the Dark Ages. With the unveiling of sections of highways in America being reserved for further testing of advances in autonomous cars, steps are being made to make the vehicles more common.

Autonomous cars are a hot button topic. If autonomous cars are to be commonplace on our roads, safety and regulations will be needed to keep standards up. Advancements in these areas are already underway. But like the arrival of the Model T, there is no putting the brakes on the arrival of the autonomous car.

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Matthew Pellerin is a second year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about politics, technology, and news ranging from around the world, the local community, to right on campus. When he's not waxing poetically on his blog, he's usually nose-deep in world news.