Autonomous vehicles have been reaching headlines of every news outlet. Self driving cars was a dream decades ago, but the day when it is plausible is reaching closer every day. China released a 450-page road map for the development of autonomous vehicles with the goal of self-driving cars to be on the market between 2021 to 2025. Elon Musk announced Tesla will be able to send one of their models from Los Angeles to New York without any human assistance by next year. Uber is already testing Lidar technology, a mount installed on top of their vehicles which is capable of being fully aware of its surroundings, in Pittsburgh. These technological advances has the dream of self-driving cars becoming closer to reality.
The arrival of this new technology will be the dawn of a new age of transportation and travel. The pros of autonomous vehicles are almost limitless. Self-driving cars will allow the elderly to become mobile again without the fear of endangering the public with their arguably reduced reaction times, less acute hearing and vision. Some cities have designated public transport that accommodates the elderly, but not all cities can afford it nor will the elderly be dependent on someone else on their travels, they will regain some of their independence.
Autonomous vehicles will reduce traffic congestion. Using the 2 and a half second rule for human reaction time, compared to a computer's 1000 nanosecond reaction time, the self-driving car would be able to fully stop in a tenth of the distance it would require a human driver. This would allow self-driving vehicles to be closer to each other and allowing more room for other vehicles - I'm not saying that human's can't do that now, but it's just not very safe to be driving so close to the car in front. And for long distances, "platooning" would allow for a "train" of cars to travel together in the same direction. Not only would this allow for safer long distance travelling, but because of draft from the very first car in front, all the other cars behind would end up saving fuel. This is when the vehicle in front is pushing the air out of the way and the vehicles behind them benefits from travelling at the same speed in a partial vacuum using less fuel to fight wind resistance. And not only does self-driving vehicles become safer, all the time spend driving could now be used more effectively - for work or a nap.
Already semi-autonomous driving is safer. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined from 2016 police data that forward collision warning alone reduced front-into rear crashes by 27 percent while automatic braking cut the rear crashes in half and reduced injures by almost 60 percent. Now imagine all cargo trucks being replaced by self-driving software. Trucking is one of the most dangerous professions. Long hours, weather conditions, and just human error resulted in almost 4000 fatal accidents.
Now the biggest problem as a result of autonomous driving will be jobs. In just New York city, automation will affect the city's 150,000 taxi and delivery drivers. This will be exactly the same as the auto production industry, where human jobs are lost to automation. And it's not just taxi and delivery drivers that would be worried - bus and truck drivers would be too. As a society we must make sure we can take care of all of us in order to make this technology plausible.