Aly: Are we ready for self-driving cars?


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A self-driving Uber prototype in San Francisco, California. 

Nada Aly

The answer is no. We aren’t ready.

Self-driving cars should not be on the road anytime soon. We do not have enough research, information, experience or testing to attempt this yet. And it may be the case, after gathering data and finishing the needed testing, that it should not be attempted — although it already has been.  

As Peter Hancock, human factors researcher from Pacific Standard magazine, says, there is “not enough information to properly evaluate whether automation may actually be better than humans at not crashing.”

It is true that people’s lives are at risk while driving most of the time because of human error, but that does not mean technology is ready to take our place yet.

It is difficult to say if this technology will ever truly be able to reach the point where there will be no mistakes or errors, but self-driving vehicles are still crashing.

Their goal is to prevent and stop accidents and fatalities caused by human error, but that goal has not been accomplished. 

“Two recent fatal crashes of cars with varying levels of autonomous-driving technology are focusing attention on vehicles that vest control in both humans and machines … both incidents have a troubling link, autonomous-vehicle specialists say: a human was at the wheel and could have taken control,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is heart-wrenching to learn a person could have stopped these tragedies. It is the main reason this technology should not yet operate: it is not ready. And it may not end up being the better option.

Car accidents cause many injuries and deaths each year — let alone every day — around the world. In the world, 1.25 million people are killed from vehicular collisions each year, and 40,000 of them are in the U.S. alone. 

I understand wanting to take away the risk of human-driver errors to save lives. I think the idea itself is wonderful, but there is not enough information and research to support that having a driverless car is actually better, or safer.

It really is heartbreaking that so many lives are lost to cars or automobiles each year, but we should not be turning to self-driving technology yet – and possibly even ever.

Instead, we should be focusing on how to prevent these heartbreaking losses and deadly mistakes, and to also encourage people to be more safe, attentive, proactive and aware behind the wheel.

Whether if it’s considering texting while driving, driving under the influence or driving in extreme weather circumstances, communities should educate people and find ways to incentivize good driving behavior.

Teaching people how to deal with sudden decisions they might have to make on the road, or teaching people what to do in various possible emergencies, can end up being the difference between life or death.

I am not against the idea of ever having self-driving cars; the problem is having them active now when the technology clearly is not ready yet. There is not enough information, findings and research yet to show if it is truly possible, practical, better and especially safe.

No matter the way, self-driving cars or not, the goal still remains to reduce the amount of lives lost from car accidents.

Drive safe and be cautious everyone.