The Economic Impact of Self-Driving Cars

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The automobile company is drastically changing over the years. Due to advancements in technology, driverless cars are in the near future. A self-driving car is a motor vehicle that is capable of automated driving and navigating entirely without direct human input. Autonomous cars are able to use cameras, sensory, GPS location, and computer systems to operate accurately and efficiently. Driverless cars have quickly become the most discussed new technologies that will be arriving within the next few years. Once these self-driving cars are in action, they will have many positive and negative effects on the United States economy.

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In the near future, driving won’t be the same as it used to be. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highways Traffic Safety Administration, there are currently five different levels of vehicle automation (Rodgers). The vehicle has no automation at level zero where the driver is in complete control and is responsible for monitoring the roadway. The vehicle is function-specific automation at level one.

The car has one or more specific control functions, such as brake and steering, that is automated, but the driver is responsible for the overall control of the car. At level two, the vehicle has combined function automation. This is when the vehicle has at least two primary control functions that work in unison to relieve the driver of control, but the driver is still responsible for monitoring the roadway. Level three consists of limited self-driving automation where the driver forgoes all key driving functions, but is able to resume control once those conditions no longer exists. In the future, vehicles are expected to reach level four where the car has full self-driving automation. The vehicle is designed to perform all primary driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for the entire length of travel without the need of a driver. The driverless cars of the future are able to outperform most humans driving ability.

These autonomous cars will have greater perceptive abilities, better reaction times, and fewer distractions than most humans (Kirkpatrick). With the technology of cameras, sensors, and computer vision, driverless cars have the ability to make the roads much safer for everyone. Based on the recent Safety Fact Sheet, highway traffic accidents are becoming one of the leading causes of death (Kassu). Of these vehicle accidents, 90% can be attributed to human error (Howard, D., & Dai, D.). Human drivers are forced to make a moral and an ethical decision that impact both their safety and the safety of others around them. The key contributors to car accidents are speeding, driving drunk, driving aggressively, and being distracted (Kirkpatrick). All of these are decisions that potentially put so many people at risk of injury and/or death. With the use of self-driving cars, all of the automated cars will be programmed to a setting where all questionable driving decisions are made the same, whereas all humans have different perspectives. The automation will simply choose the outcome that will result in the greatest potential benefits of the passengers and the environment around them. On the other hand, humans make decisions without knowing the risk they are taking or putting someone into. Self-driving car sensors will have the ability to follow traffic rules and be more alert and responsive than drivers today, leading to fewer accidents (Public Perceptions of self driving cars).

With the use of driverless cars, productivity in everyday life will increase in many forms. On average, the American commuter spends about 250 hours a year behind the wheel of a vehicle. Most of that time is taken up in rush hour traffic or by driving around the streets looking for a parking space (Self-Driving Cars). The amount of time humans waste in traffic and/or commute time can now be spent doing work in a driverless car. The average commute time in the United States is about 25 minutes (Self-Driving Cars). During this time, people can catch up on anything they have to do since they won’t have to pay attention to operating the vehicle. They are able to focus all of their attention on what they need to get done, increasing their productivity. Humans will be able to maximize their time during their commute every day with the self-driving car, making lives more convenient.

Driverless cars will reduce the demand for parking facilities and allow for more necessary buildings such as office space and apartments. In some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than a third of the land area (Self-Driving Cars). The self-driving cars do not necessarily need to park in a parking area during the day since it can make multiple trips and drive on its own. People are able to program the car to pick you up at a certain time and take you to where you need to go. With this, vehicle sharing will increase allowing people to use the same car to get to where they need to go.

One major economic issue with self-driving cars is the number of job losses in the transportation industry that will result from these automated cars. 47% of the United States total employment will be at risk from automation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, and bus drivers account for 4.87 million jobs in the United States (Arinze). Driverless cars will put a tremendous amount of people to become unemployed in the United States. According to Goldman Sachs, if the automated cars clear government and becomes widely adopted, about 300,000 jobs per year will be lost (LeSage). Replacing driverless cars with people’s job will allow there to be more productivity in that business. Self-driving cars can constantly run 24/7 which will allow businesses to get more work done without the need to pay people. Another major concern of the driverless cars is liability issues.

If driverless cars do get into accidents, who is responsible for any damages? In the future, everyone necessarily will not be driving full automated vehicles. These driverless cars can get into accidents involving human drives, semi-automated drivers and fully-automated drivers. Self-driving vehicle collisions will be more complicated to assign liability to. Did the accident happen due to human error or the automated car? Did the vehicles software malfunction? The types of claim most likely associated with the self-driving cars will be based upon product liability issues (Rogers). Under product liability, judges seem to assign liability to whoever built the vehicle liability since this person was to create a product that is supposed to move people around safely. On the other hand, courts can determine who is responsible in situations where a human could have intervened to stop the accident but did not (Calo).

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The Economic Impact of Self-Driving Cars. (2019, Jan 28). Retrieved from