THE VENT: What’s next? Innovation in self-driving cars foreshadows new tech milestone


Fair use image courtesy of Roman Boed, Flickr Creative Commons

Google's self-driving cars use LiDAR, one of many types of distance sensors currently under development for self-driving cars. Google's car is not yet commercially available.

Every once in awhile, some monumental technological innovation arrives and changes the world. The internet some decades ago, the automobile a century ago, and the Smartphone just eight years ago. They’re rare but they certainly exist. However, when they come it always leaves a single lingering question:  What’s next? Right now, I’d argue that the answer is the self-driving car.

Nobody really knows exactly when the self-driving will arrive, maybe just a few years and maybe another decade. Even when it does finally arrive the price will be expensive. However, in time, the original price will lower quickly as each company maneuvers for control and when some Henry Ford wannabe finds out how to curb the price to fit the middle-class consumer. Then, we may have a full blown technological revolution on our hands. Like it or not, it’s coming and might even be a dominant product soon, which is intimidating. However, given the benefits a self-driving car world might bring, we may just need to prioritize it.

Around 30,000 Americans die in a car crash every year,with some 4 million more injured.”

— Newsweek

Around 30,000 Americans die in a car crash every year,with some 4 million more injured, according to Newsweek. Eighty percent of those car crashes are accounted to human error. Remove the human error out of the number and suddenly there exists the potential to save dozens of lives and prevent millions of injuries. Right there is the number one argument for the self-driving car. For good reason, saving thousands of lives a year appeals to any functioning human. That’s not even all. The self-driving car could reduce traffic, mitigate parking, decrease transit time, increase free time, the list goes on and on. A world of self-driving cars brings tangible benefits. Except there’s a shadow to every step forward — and the self-driving car happens to cast a long one.

A running theme around recent  technological innovation is cyber security, for good reason too, the more people put online, the more those with malicious intent can take. Self-driving cars happen to be something a hacker could potentially take information from, and  worst case, control. That’s terrifying.

Tesla Motors


Furthermore, our roads aren’t prepared, our industries might collapse, and our people don’t necessarily even want them. Suddenly, the sunshine and good-feelings the self-driving car used to radiate dampen.


But that doesn’t mean we should give up on the idea of a self-driving car world. Quite the opposite, it means we should push forwards to one that is better prepared to address the problems.

If the world isn’t ready, it might have to make itself ready.”

— columnist Spencer Allen

If the world isn’t ready, it might have to make itself ready. The companies currently working towards the self-driving car must put security as an imperative because they certainly aren’t ready right now. All the roads that the car can’t currently maneuver on properly including roads under maintenance should be adjusted for safety. No longer can GPS devices be allowed to malfunction randomly or send someone down a one-way street. Finally, people might just need to accept the oncoming reality of the self-driving car. That’s a long grocery list and seems burdensome, especially to those who couldn’t care less about a self-driving car. Fortunately, much of that burden falls upon the companies and the government, but we all might have to take some part.

But remember what the self-driving car might accomplish, all the good it might do. Every single one of those great innovations that changed the world were scary at the time, some more than others, but the fear didn’t stop them, so we just have to be ready. Sure there’s negatives, but given preparation and a high enough standard then suddenly the future might be a little brighter after all.