Have you ever thought of how horrible life would be if robots ruled the world? A world where humans become mindless lethargic zombies that require the help of artificial intelligence just to do even the simplest of stuff such as vacuuming or washing the dishes. Well you might not have to think about that world anymore as it could soon become a disturbing reality. So guess what could be at the forefront of this scary dystopian future. A new computer perhaps or maybe a breakthrough in robotics. No. It’s actually autonomous cars. Now you might be thinking to yourself how an innocent little car can possibly bring about the end of humanity. Well it’s simple – when more and more things in life get automated we begin to use less of our brains, this in turn slowly degrades our ability to think and act for ourselves. Besides, the human brain is what distinguishes us from the rest of the life on earth and when our brains become less active we are quintessentially becoming more of an animal and regressing backwards. In addition to this, I don’t think that the technologies we have are advanced enough to safely transport a human being.
Imagine you are driving on a road with your precious family onboard; your kids are sitting in the back playing ‘I Spy’. Suddenly, a truck carrying fuel ignites in front of you. You need to act fast as at any moment it could explode. You cannot reverse because there is a long line of traffic behind you. There is an open field at the side of the road. In the blink of an eye you point your car into the field and floor the accelerator hoping to get as far away from the burning truck as possible. Now, imagine the same situation but this time you and your family are sitting in a driverless car. The car is set up to obey the road rules and it is only programmed to drive on the road. It cannot go into the field and it cannot go backwards. What will the car do? An online article titled ‘The Driverless Car Debate: How Safe Are Autonomous Vehicles?’, also presents a similar issue but this time the driverless car is forced to make a decision between risking the occupant’s life or the life of a young child playing on the street. Computers can cause chaos if they are unable to make correct decisions, additionally, they can cause unimaginable destruction in the wrong hands.
Which leads us onto the issue of hacking; to be honest this also applies to modern cars as well. If you have a fully loaded car with as much gizmos as an intergalactic spaceship, then you could be at risk of getting hacked. Gone are the days when cars were just an engine and a driver, these days cars are basically computers on wheels. A recent news article published by the BBC highlighted the problems of modern day cars and it involved the automaker ‘Jeep’ recalling 1.4 million of their cars after it was found that a hacker managed to get control of the car through its computer. The website ‘motors.co.uk’ also reported that ’47 per cent of the 21,000 vehicles stolen in London last year (2014) were subject to some form of electronic security hacking.’ Can you imagine what a hacker, or a cyber terrorist, could do to an autonomous car? It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? However, you might now be saying that modern computer systems are as secure as a bank. Well, they said that about the ‘Ashley Madison’ website and look where that has ended up…..
Security isn’t the only problem with autonomous cars however, as more and more driverless cars start to appear on the roads many jobs could be lost. Unemployment will creep up on people who make an honest living by driving things around. An article published by ‘The Guardian’ lists all the jobs that are at risk because of driver less cars, it includes bus, taxi and truck drivers, home delivery drivers and waste disposal. Some will argue that this will make public transportation cheaper, but it will also mean that more people will be pushed into the far corners of poverty. Actually, there may not be a public transport system at all if people just bought self-driving cars instead of using the bus. This will surely mean that we become less sociable in the future as we are secluded in our mini miserable motorised boxes that ferry us around like kids.
My final reason for not wanting autonomous cars in the UK is because of the loss of enjoyment. When you drive a normal car you get a sense of freedom and liberation which I can guarantee you will not get with an autonomous car. Petrolheads, like me, love cars not because of how fast they are but because of how they make you feel while driving it. I love hearing the ever so satisfying clunk of a gear change and the sound of a well executed downshift. Now I know that not everyone in this world is a petrolhead, but even non-petrolheads will agree with me when I say that there is nothing better than driving along on a scenic route as the sun sets in the sky.
The world has come a long way since the invention of the automobile. We have had two world wars; we have landed on the moon and we have explored previously unknown regions on earth. Throughout all this, the basics of the car has never changed one bit, sure cars have gotten safer, faster and more efficient but the key aspect remains the same – a car and a driver. Even before cars we had horses and riders, it has been like this for many years and there is nothing wrong with it. After all, would you really trust a computer, an artificially created mix of wires and electricity, with your life?