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Still in their early stages of
development, self-driving cars have many potential impacts including positive
and negative ones. While some of these impacts have been identified through
tests, some are yet to be fully determined. It is important to continue efforts
to test these cars to identify their real impacts.
The self-driving car technology has
some positive as well as negative impacts on the environment. On the positive
side, the cars are expected to reduce or eliminate common environmental
concerns of traditional cars including air pollution, energy consumption, noise
pollution, and traffic congestion. These cars will have advanced technologies
to ensure improved efficiencies and effectiveness. However, the cars are also
cited for their safety issues including accidents risks. Previous tests show
that self-driving cars tend to have accidents that undermine the safety of
travelers and pedestrians (Saripalli, 2017).
Source: (Jiang et al., 2015).
Diagram 2: Global Car Market
Source: (Jiang et al., 2015).
Diagram 1: Cost of Self-Driving Car
Currently, production of
self-driving cars is a costly affair with companies investing significant
amounts of money in R&D and manufacturing (Bagloee,
2016). This is one of the reasons for the
seemingly slow rate of growth of the technology. However, the costs are
expected to decline continuously into the future (see diagram 1) and the demand for such cars will keep growing. As
illustrated in diagram 2 below, the semi-autonomous and autonomous cars will
surpass traditional cars in terms of sales by the year 2030. With this trend,
revenues in the global automotive industry will shift from traditional cars to
the self-driving cars in the long term.
Self-driving cars have significant
policy and legal implications. The existing laws are based on the assumption of
having human drivers behind the wheels. This is seen in traffic rules and laws
as well as insurance policies. A fundamental issue is whether self-driving cars
will be legally accepted and controlled under the existing legal and policy
frameworks. For example, in terms of insurance, will self-driving cars be
covered and who specifically will be liable in case of accidents? Is it the
manufacturer, owner, or the operator? Additionally, self-driving cars raise
fundamental concerns regarding data privacy because they generate significant
amounts of data such as GPS location and speed that could be leaked to
unauthorized parties. Finally, different federal and state laws and regulations
will impact the self-driving technology. Possible differences in regulation
where some states allow self-driving cars while others do not may cause
problems in the success of the technology (Lari, Douma,
& Onyiah, 2015).
important cultural aspect of self-driving cars is their featuring in science
fiction movies. Good examples include Knight
Rider, Transformers, and Total
Recall. This implies that the technology is becoming culturally accepted
and that these films tend to promote this idea and hence break any cultural
barriers to acceptance of these self-driving cars.
From a cultural perspective, the
self-driving car has several important implications. To begin with, the whole
concept of the technology differs in America and other countries. In America,
the concept and reality of a self-driving car is widely accepted and
acknowledge. In fact, the common terminology used to refer to the technology is
autonomous cars (Jiang et al., 2015). Companies such as Google have been
able to demonstrate the possibility of having autonomous cars in the roads.
This is not the case in more conservative cultures, especially in the poor and
developing countries. In these cultures, the concept of self-driving cars may
From a social perspective, one of
the most noticeable aspects of the self-driving cars is acceptability. This
technology is yet to be fully accepted and received by the society. While some
people have accepted it as a good technological development, many others still
have concerns, doubts, and fears regarding the reality of self-driving cars and
their real impacts on society. Another issue is the particular needs of the
society that the technology will be serving. Considering Maslow’s hierarchy of
needs, self-driving cars fall in the esteem needs where owning the self-driving
car would be a source of a sense of achievement, prestige, and status. Still in
their nascent stage, self-driving cars are quite rare and expensive (Bagloee, 2016). This means that the cars are only accessible to a select few from the
privileged classes leaving out the less and under-privileged. Another potential
social impact of self-driving cars is the potential to cause loss of jobs to
many drivers, car mechanics, parking attendants, traffic police, and meter
attendants among others (Lari, Douma, & Onyiah,
2015). With the commercialization of this
technology, there will be no need for these jobs and hence many people will be
the self-driving cars technology continues to advance and take root, it exerts
various impacts on different areas ranging from the social lifestyle to people
to their cultures, to politics, and economic development. It is important to
examine these impacts because such an understanding will help in preparing for
when the technology will become widely available so as to prevent unnecessary
shocks and implications. In this paper, the potential impacts of self-driving
cars are critically analyzed from social, cultural, political, economic, and
environmental perspectives. From the analysis, it is clear that the technology has
major impacts on all these areas and that it is also shaped by these factors.
of Impact of Self-Driving Cars