What if the next car you buy or taxi you hail drives itself? Driverless cars, also known as autonomous or self-driving vehicles, are currently in test-drive mode around the globe. Proponents claim this innovation will drastically improve our lives, with fewer auto accidents, less traffic congestion and carbon emissions, as well as greater accessibility for the elderly and those with physical limitations. Opponents, however, argue that autonomous vehicles will increase traffic, render current infrastructure obsolete, and jeopardize millions of auto-related jobs. Worse yet, they say, these cars are nothing more than a computer-on-wheels, meaning an error in programming by developers, or hacking by nefarious actors, could lead to disaster. Should we proceed with caution? Or embrace the driverless car? This debate is presented in partnership with the Adam Smith Society. The Adam Smith Society — a project of the Manhattan Institute — is an expansive, chapter-based network of MBA students, professionals, and business leaders who work to foster debate about the moral, social, and economic benefits of capitalism.
- Autonomous vehicles are safe, sustainable, and energy-efficient. They remove the possibility of human error and can help reduce traffic and pollution.
- Driverless cars could give humans the gift of time: Instead of operating a vehicle, commuters will be able to focus on conducting meetings, reading, eating, and resting.
For people with physical limitations, transportation presents many obstacles. Driverless cars can solve these problems by providing them with greater accessibility and mobility.
- Trusting technologies to drive at high velocities raises safety concerns, and there are already instances of self-driving malfunctions leading to injuries and even fatalities.
- Automation is already hurting American workers and autonomous vehicles could add to this issue, potentially taking jobs away from professional drivers all over the country.
- It is undesirable to leave an ethical judgement, such as a decision of whether to injure a passenger to save a bystander, up to a robot. Only humans can respond and react to these unique situations.