Self-driving cars show so much promise in the way of safety, mobility, and cost savings. But are we really ready for them just yet?
Experts boast about their potential to reduce traffic, make roads safer, and offer unprecedented convenience. The self-driving car is expected to be the biggest thing since … well … the car.
Autos of tomorrow will “talk” to each other and roadway structures to create a real-time, panoramic view of the world unfolding around them, down to the millimeter. That way, if there’s an oil slick ahead, say, or a couch falls off a truck bed onto the highway, vehicles can maneuver in time.
There’s also the cost savings. Especially if you opt to rideshare, there’ll be no more upfront and ongoing maintenance expenses, speeding tickets, or fuel/charging costs. Say farewell to liability auto coverage too — only manufacturers will need it.
Esurance recently crunched the numbers to see just how much self-driving cars could save us in the coming years. Check it out here.
That said, the real question isn’t if driverless cars are really coming (they are), or if they’ll save us some benjamins (they might). What’s most pressing is what big players in driverless tech will need to address before most consumers are ready to go driverless.
Is the tech really up to snuff?
Fears of giving control to robo-cars have existed long before autonomous technology.
A 2017 study from Pew Research found that more than half of U.S. adults expressed some degree of concern about the development of automated vehicles. Most also said they wouldn’t want to ride in one.
The main concern is the technology might not be up to snuff. The nuances a human driver can pick up on, like slowing down when you see a kid clumsily kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk, might be lost in all that data collection. Plus, many of us simply like to drive.
Acceptance is on the upswing … but not there yet
Most surveys, however, show that fears are on the decline as the technology becomes more accessible. That’s even despite hiccups along the way.
Take the city of Pittsburgh, for example — a microcosm for self-driving tech. Since Uber’s driverless program started in 2016, the response has been largely positive. People report feeling safe around robo-taxis and most are happy with testing going on in their city.
When you break down those surveys by demographics, millennials are largely enthusiastic about self-driving cars and are probably the ones who’ll be using it the most. Besides that, human tendency tells us that we generally choose the path of least resistance. Once driverless cars demonstrate reliability, the rest is history.
After all that cost-saving talk about our driverless future, Esurance dug deep into the social media sphere, rendering a real-time view of how Americans feel about relinquishing the wheel. Read all about it here.
Privacy concerns over data
Lesser known, but still urgent, are concerns over privacy. Data’s the main ingredient behind driverless cars, and some experts predict that vehicle data could become more valuable than the vehicle itself.
As gifted data-accruing machines, self-driving cars gather info about your driving habits, where you’ve been, what you see every day, and routes you frequently take, while also tracking your car’s mechanical performance and tire pressure.
It’s through data collecting and sorting that cars will be able to navigate complex roadways and situations — plus relay mechanical failures to headquarters (which means no more recalls).
Sensitive info like this, however, is coveted by hackers and businesses alike. For this reason, cybersecurity is a very real and pressing issue. But now that we’ve reeled you in with lightweight fearmongering, there’s a bright side to all this.
Cybersecurity measures are high priority for automakers
Laws around data protection and cyber security are being heavily weighed as technology is fleshed out by policymakers, manufacturers, and tech leaders. Because, when it comes down to it, people won’t use what they don’t trust.
So, are we ready for self-driving cars?
The honest answer: kinda.
Like all grand innovations, there’ll be unprecedented results. After automobiles first hit the roads en masse, it was apparent that traffic lights, better-paved roads, and car insurance were in order, and people adapted accordingly. We’ll do the same with the driverless revolution.
For now, read the fine print, whether you’re purchasing a car or setting up smart-home technology. And always ask questions about how your data’s being collected or with whom it’s being shared.