There is a concerted movement in the past few years to try to reduce the numbers of crashes on America’s roads. Every day the news media features stories about an accident involving a distracted or tired driver. So, for many in the automotive industry, the answer appears to be to design a self-driving vehicle that requires little if any input from a human being.
There have been several companies who have designed and tested these vehicles. Both technology giants and trucking manufacturers are hard at work designing what seems to be the perfect machine. However, there have been glitches that indicate that automation may not always be executed flawlessly. Google has had several issues when testing these machines, including a few accidents when a bug in the programming resulted in a program failure. Most recently, a self driving bus was involved in an accident on its first trial run.
The test run took place in Las Vegas, and the vehicle was scheduled to be in use for a one-week trial. According to the accounts, the passenger vehicle, referred to in some circles as an automated people mover, was proceeding down a local street amongst regular traffic. The sensors on the front of the bus detected the approach of another vehicle that appeared to be on a collision course. The bus then came to a stop as it was programmed to do. Unfortunately, the oncoming truck was not equipped with similar sensors and it then reportedly grazed the front bumper of the shuttle.
No one was injured in the incident nor was there any details concerning what damages either vehicle may have sustained. The bus only has a seating capacity for eight passengers. While the blame for the accident was focused on the lack of sensors on the truck, if a human had been behind the wheel and in control of the bus, then possibly evasive action could have prevented even this minor collision. It is admirable to attempt to reduce the loss of life due to human error, but is it possible to take humans out of the equation completely?
It has been estimated that the push to replace truck drivers with computers could cost countless drivers their careers. There have already been many factory workers who have lost their positions out of the push to replace them with automation as a way to reduce costs for business. It seems possible that the ultimate goal in replacing people with machines is to reduce costs rather than to increase safety.
In the end, will the desire to increase profits really increase productivity and safety? Or will society eventually lose the ability to innovate and feel empathy? There is a need to increase the safety of the roads and highways and the problems of distracted and overly tired drivers do need to be resolved for the safety of all travelers. However, will the trade-off be worth the loss of human interaction and decision making in the split second when it counts most?
Writer Bio: Angela Mose
I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years. I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia. A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.