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Car news | 01.08.2014 - 19:35

The Real Dangers that Could Be Lurking Behind Driverless Cars

Learn about some of the disheartening dangers that could be lurking behind the technology of driverless cars.

Google has them cruising around California, Ford, Toyota, and BMW are developing them, Nevada has legalized them, and the FBI expects we will see the public use of them within 7 years. Though we have time before unmanned vehicles are ubiquitous in America, this technology is on the rise. Zoz, a world renowned hacker and entrepreneur, said of unmanned cars, “The revolution is coming. You can’t stop it even if you want to.” As incredible as the technology is, as with any new device or program, it presents new problems. Read on to learn about some of the disheartening dangers that could be lurking behind the technology of driverless cars.

 

Hacking

A former NSA hacker, Charlie Parker, successfully hacked into the computer systems of a Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius. He and his partner took control of the brakes, seatbelts, acceleration, and steering. As cars become increasingly computer-like these problems could be exacerbated. “I’m a huge fan of unmanned vehicles,” said Zoz, “…but like everything else humans have made, these systems are going to get hacked.” Typically, hacking endangers sensitive information or data, but in this case, a hacker would endanger human lives by taking control of the car.

 

Malfunctions and Legal Issues

Autonomous vehicles are far from perfect. For example, it is very possible that the GPS could jam, the laser range finder may go haywire with a bit of dust or smoke, and the millimeter wave radar cannot deal with reflective puddles. These issues could cause the car to brake or to drive into something that it doesn’t see. Even with improvements these malfunctions are inevitable. According to Barrie personal injury lawyer, Robert Littlejohn, a huge problem that comes with driverless cars would be determining who is at fault in an accident. If a driverless car malfunctions and crashes into another vehicle, who is to blame? It is difficult to deduct money from the driver’s insurance when there is no “driver.”

 

Dulling the Senses

“The greatest challenge to having highly automated vehicles will not be technical,” said Richard Wallace, a director at the Center for Automotive Research, “…it’s handling the transition when humans must take back control.” Our skills will decline as we drive less, and at some point we may need to abruptly take back the reigns. The transition from distraction to extreme focus, when it happens, will be hazardous and could cause an inconceivable amount of accidents in the future.

 

Terror

A report from the FBI showed real concern over how driverless cars could be used by criminals. They fear they may allow lawbreakers to complete tasks “that require the use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road,” such as firing a gun at pursuers. The FBI also suggests that they could become “more of a potential weapon,” allowing terrorists to explode self-driven cars from remote locations. This point goes back to the dangers involved in hacking. While developers claim that driverless cars are safer than letting humans drive, they would also provide an advantage to those with ill intent.

 

Unemployment

There is also this economic danger: Massive unemployment resulting from the obsolescence of taxis, bus drivers, traffic police, truck drivers, and delivery men and women. As jobs are increasingly automated and no new ones rise to take their place, the economist Tyler Cowen believes we are in for “The Great Stagnation.” Obviously, this would become an issue if driverless cars in fact became mainstream devices.

 

While there are many worries about how this technology could change our lives and the roads we drive on, there is still more research and development to come. It is the public’s hope that as the technology develops, the bugs will be worked out and developers will provide solutions for these dangers. For now, the question still remains as to whether these driverless vehicles are truly safer than letting humans drive.

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