When I was a child my grandparents used to tell me; one day we don’t need to drive anymore, the car would do the driving for you. Then, I would look at them and would think you get crazier every time I see you.
The first experiments with self-driving cars were done in 1925, when a radio controlled “American Wonder” was travelling on New York City streets. A second car that sent out radio impulses, which were caught by the American Wonder`s transmitting antennae, monitored it. Since then the technology has developed dramatically with the help of AI. This technology will make it possible that self-driving cars might dominate the roads in the future.
This imagination seems incredibly fascinating and at the same time frightening. It might be a utopia, where the technology replaces the human driver and thereby avoid human error. That in turn may lead to a reduction of traffic deaths.
Secondly, it might be, that suddenly we have much more time for us. Imagine an employee who has to drive 30 minutes each day to his work. He looses every day one hour. In a week he looses 7 hours, in a month he looses 28 hours and in a year he looses 336 hours. I did not even count the amount of time he is driving to his possible hobbies, doing his grocery shopping, picking up his children etc. But with a self-driving car he is able to read, contact friends, prepare for work, watch movies, whatever the space in a self-driving car offers.
On the other hand the imagination of self-driving cars seem scary. The idea of not having the control in a self-driving car is very scaring. You rely on a machine, where you have no understanding of how it works. It controls your life from the moment on you step into the car. Someone might argue being in a manual car is comparable. In that case we don`t rely on algorithms but we rely on the engine or on the brakes of the manual car. That means, we actually don´t have any control if the brake or the engine, in a very rare case stops working. We are completely at the mercy of the car like at the mercy of a self-driving car. However, the difference is the perceived control that we feel when in a manual car. We are the ones who use the brakes. In addition, checking the engine or the brakes gives us the feeling of being in control as well. Even more scaring, algorithms control the self-driving car. That means hackers may be capable of getting unauthorized access to data in the system.
For me the most scaring part is that we slowly might loose social interactions in traffic. Let`s imagine there are just self-driving cars on the road. Furthermore, let`s imagine self-driving cars are so secure that no accident will happen, because they are technically coordinated with each other. So, you will step into your self-driving and enter your destination. You will prepare your work, do texting or read a book, but you will not horn five times, when a driver is daydreaming in front of a traffic light and shout; “it is green you mole”. There will be never the situation that your self-driving car does not start and people will come and help you. These interactions might seem small but I think these small interactions give you a contribution to your satisfaction.
Another point is that you might not attend to your surroundings because it is not necessary anymore due to the control of the self-driving cars. If I would imagine this it feels like an isolated individual in a box. We are social human beings; therefore we want to have social interactions. It might be that I am completely wrong. It might be that there will never be the situation with just self-driving cars on the roads. We will see, maybe we will not see.
One thing is clear; it is fascinating and scary at the same time.