Self Driving Cars – Waymo
A self-driving car can be defined as “”a vehicle that can guide itself without human conduction”” (Techopedia, n.d.). Various companies are building these companies, with Waymo at the forefront of the industry. Waymo is a company owned by Alphabet Inc., located in Phoenix, Arizona. They started as Google’s self-driving car project, then became an independent company. Their most recent vehicles are completely driverless, no longer equipped with steering wheels or pedals. These autonomous cars are a major technological advance that will have a strong impact on society. The main goal of self-driving cars is to reduce traffic accidents, which are mainly caused by human error and distraction. There are numerous potential benefits, however, there are various potential consequences as well.
An interesting aspect of Waymo’s self-driving cars is a support team called the “”Voice of Waymo,”” which is there to answer any questions riders have and organize retrievals if an item is left in one of the cars. The Voice of Waymo also allows passengers to feel safer in their driverless vehicles, checking in on them if they do not start or leave the cars after a few minutes. Program manager Kellye Turpen discusses the ground-breaking technology stating “”it’s the first kind of support for an autonomous vehicle and so we have a (major role) in defining that industry and what it means to provide support to these people who are riding in these driverless cars”” (Schutsky, 2018). This program is a huge advancement in the technology of self-driving cars, providing riders with a support system to make them more comfortable. The Voice of Waymo can specifically help the elderly, allowing them to safely travel if they cannot drive themselves. The support team checks in on them in case something happens, such as a stroke or seizure. If this did happen, the support team would be there to communicate with them and could even reroute their destination to the hospital. The Voice of Waymo program is a crucial feature that will have a strong impact on society.
One of the many potential benefits of self-driving cars is their ability to help the disabled. This technology is a possible solution for those with disabilities, providing transportation and increasing their independence. Many with disabilities cannot drive, but they can still work. This means they require transportation to a job without having to rely on someone else. Self-driving cars could be the answer to this problem. According to a recent study, “”[a]pproximately 2 million individuals with disabilities would have new employment opportunities”” (Graham, 2017). Having the opportunity to work with others allows those with disabilities to feel included in society. It helps their mental health through increased socializing. These possible benefits in the self-driving car industry show how this technology could positively affect society.
Despite these numerous benefits, people are still skeptical about self-driving cars. Troy Wolverton explores the potential consequences of self-driving cars. Shannon Sanders McDonald, a professor at Southern Illinois University, has studied the possible outcomes. She states “”[i]f we understand (the drawbacks), we can design for them so their impact is not so negative”” (Wolverton, 2016). This involves placing rules that steer the autonomous cars to the best possible outcomes. Wolverton discusses the idea of using self-driving cars as reliable transportation for poorer areas. The residents of these areas must often rely on transit systems that do not offer reliable connections to other areas for jobs and other needs. Self-driving cars will be beneficial for these families, allowing them to avoid these transit systems. However, there are also numerous drawbacks. Those who drive for a living, such as truck and bus drivers, will become obsolete. This, therefore, causes them to lose their jobs and become unable to support themselves and their families. There is also the possibility that self-driving cars will unintentionally cause more congestion. People may be more likely to drive to work if they no longer have to worry about heavy traffic. This ultimately leads to even more congestion, despite the attempt to lessen it. People might also be encouraged to take longer road trips without stopping because they could sleep in the car. This will cause a heavy blow to hotels which rely on travelers stopping to rest for a night or two. It also creates even more traffic because less people are getting off the roads to relax. Wolverton’s conclusion is self-driving cars need to be studied more to determine how they will affect society.
Another skeptic of self-driving cars is Ed Finn, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. His main concern is how driverless vehicles will affect the culture of Phoenix. According to Finn, “”the Phoenix metropolitan area is a gargantuan expression of the car culture that defines the urban experience for most Americans”” (Finn, 2018). The Phoenix culture revolves around cars and not owning one leads to exclusion from this culture. The self-driving car industry is redefining society through a cultural revolution. The car is a central aspect of American identity, and companies such as Waymo are causing the rejection of this idea. Even Ford is beginning to make the change from selling cars to selling car services instead. The industry will likely revolutionize over a third of the jobs in Phoenix. However, Finn also states Phoenicians might refuse to accommodate such an industry. He claims “”[they] need a new dream about the romance of the car to convince [them] to let go of the old one”” (Finn, 2018). The car is an important facet of the culture in Phoenix, and some may not be willing to abandon their cultural identity.