Did you know your chances of dying from a plane crash is a slim 1 in 1.2 million, and dying from an automobile accident is 1 in 5,000? Every year, in the U.S alone, 37,000 people die from road crashes. An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled. It is no surprise that road crashes are the single greatest annual cause of death in the U.S. Dating back to the early 30’s, especially with the exponential increase in highway builds, reports of fatal car crashes have been in high alert; estimating around 31,000 deaths per year, the USDOT (the U.S Department of Transportation), technology companies, and chiefly automobile companies, have profoundly researched innovative ways to diminish the number of accidents, and the number of potential deaths.
In the last decade, technology companies have been in the spotlight for creating the solution: driverless cars. Companies like Samsung, Uber, Google, and Apple have been attempting to shape the future of driving. Not to mention the high competition posed by car manufacturers like Tesla and BMW, these massive corporations have been working to reduce the contingency of all future accidents. With the sole belief that AI cars will achieve flawless driving safety, compared to the flawed and inevitable occurrence of human error, some autonomous cars have recently taken the road alongside human-driven cars. However, AI cars have newly posed a great concern for drivers, and even pedestrians regarding the true safety of autonomous cars. Recent articles from the Wired and The Verge have pointed out the surprisingly considerable cases of accidents involving driverless cars, raising questions about the perfect-acclaimed safety of AI cars.
Surveillance recorded a horrific video captured on March 18th; an Uber self-driving car fatally hit and killed a 49-year-old woman, Elaine Herzberg, in Tempe, Arizona. Failing to slow down, the autonomous car killed the pedestrian who was walking her bike across the street. The publicly released footage sparked question and fear about the true credibility of self-driving cars. The Uber car relies on radar sensors that can detect proximate pedestrians, cyclists, cars and other obstacles; it is still unclear what went wrong in this peculiar case. Nonetheless, people and the media are still terrified about the hidden danger of autonomous cars, even just from a simple malfunction.
A more recent case occurred on March 23: a Tesla autopilot automobile collided with another car. The victim, 38-year-old Walter Huang, died later in the hospital. The Tesla Model X was on autopilot and its error has claimed the life of another unfortunate victim. Tesla is now currently working on improving their safety system. It is also unclear why the Tesla X failed to halt even when the car sensors came in within the distance.
Even in this strong technology craze in creating the potential future of automobiles, people are still concerned about the implementation of AI, as seen in the recent accidents involving AI cars. Yes- AI might be statistically less prone to cause accidents, but the recent birth and undiscovered possibilities of autonomous cars will currently remain a matter of question and concern. For all we know, it is safe to say that the U.S. is a bit skeptical. Only time will tell if autonomous cars are indeed the true future of cars.
– Andy Kim (’20)
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