Featured Media Resource: [VIDEO] “Self-Driving Cars: The Road Ahead” (KQED QUEST)
Self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Google, Tesla, Audi and other companies are taking dozens of prototype vehicles onto the road in California and other states. But before they can take off with consumers, big hurdles need to be overcome. (Note: We recommend that you view the following five-minute section from the half-hour documentary—06:03 to 10:44)
Should we invest time and money transitioning to driverless cars? Why or why not? #DoNowDriverless
How to Do Now
Do Now by posting your response on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Flickr, Google +, etc.
Be sure to include @KQEDedspace and #DoNowDriverless.
Learn More About the Debate Over Driverless Cars
Driving a car is one of the most dangerous human activities. According to the US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014, approximately 32,675 people died in traffic accidents and another 2.3 million were injured. Driver inattention and distraction are often the cause of these accidents. Companies, including Google, have been working to create an efficient solution to prevent human error. Their solution: driverless cars. Although this innovative technology may provide various benefits, it also has several downfalls.
Driverless cars could create a safer environment on the road by eliminating issues such as drunk-driving, exhaustion, blind spots, and distractions from activities like using a smartphone while driving. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 32 percent of fatal car accidents include an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. If driverless cars are properly introduced to roads across the country, millions of lives could be saved.
There would also be opportunities to save time and insurance costs. With computers operating the car, passengers can spend their time working or reading. Fewer cars on the road would also cut down transportation time. With the advanced technology installed in the self-driving cars, vehicles will be able to drive in closer range, creating less traffic. In addition, disabled individuals who currently rely on public transportation or other drivers would have greater flexibility.
In addition to helping individual drivers, driverless cars could also have a positive impact on the larger community. Because a computer is in control, there would no longer be the possibility of speeding, freeing law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes (although some argue that many police officers would be put out of work with this technology). Furthermore, a system with solely driverless cars requires fewer parking structures because the cars can drop off the passengers and find a spot farther away.
If driverless cars are not universally adapted, the combination of driver-necessary and driverless cars on the road could be an issue. Therefore, a rapid transition and clear safety guidelines would be necessary for the success of this technology. Driverless cars would not be able to interpret human traffic signals, such as traffic signal malfunction, bricks, cones, police signals, or even other driver’s signals; and thus, a combination of the two could lead to disaster. Another problem: whose fault would it be when an accident occurs? The manufacturer, the passenger, or the programmer? There is even the possibility for hackers to access the cars’ computers and cause accidents.
Many people might not trust such technologies and prefer to drive themselves. How would a quick, universal transition be possible if people are unwilling to adapt to the new technology? Furthermore, the use of driverless cars would diminish the need for public transportation, rendering many people jobless. Driver education companies would lose business, or be forced to shift the purpose of their courses. And when the situation arises, humans would no longer have the experience necessary to drive themselves.
So, should we invest our efforts in transitioning to driverless cars, or stick with the system of driving that we have now? Why or why not?
VIDEO: Sebastian Thrun: Google’s driverless car (TED Talks)
Sebastian Thrun helped build Google’s driverless car, motivated by a personal quest to save lives and reduce traffic accidents.
VIDEO: Google’s Self Driving Car (Google)
Explore Google’s Self Driving Car Project through various videos of interviews and test drives.
ARTICLE: For Now, Self-Driving Cars Still Need Humans (The New York Times)
Learn more about research on driverless cars from various car companies.
AUDIO: The Ethics Behind Driverless Cars (NPR)
Learn more about the ethical debate surrounding driverless cars.
Do Next takes the online conversation to the next level: these are suggestions for ways to go out into your community and investigate how the topic featured in this Do Now impacts people’s lives. Use digital storytelling tools and social media to share your story and take action. Make sure to tag your creations with #DoNowDriverless.
- Host a Debate: In your classroom, create a debate. Create opening statements, arguments, counter arguments, rebuttals, and closing statements to demonstrate the multiple facets of the issue. You can use visuals, polls, etc. to support your viewpoints. Have some students watch the debate and vote after the debate to see which side developed the strongest arguments.
- Create a Public Service Announcement: Create a slideshow on Animoto or use a phone to film a short video either advocating for or against driverless cars. After filming, use video editors like WeVideo or iMovie to put your video together and share it with your friends.
- Illustrate the Debate: Make an infographic using an online tool like ease.ly or Piktochart or even PowerPoint to explain the different positions on the issue of driverless cars.