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The Bullet: Autonomous Agony

Written by Degen Hill Published on   2 mins read

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The craze over robots driving people around got me thinking about the absurdity, as well as implications, of autonomous vehicles.

Welcome to The Bullet, KrASIA’s newest column. The news comes at you fast, and we’re here to make sure you don’t miss the good stuff. The Bullet is a no-holds-barred column where we discuss the issues no one talks about. We’re here to spark conversations, provoke thought, and dive into the deep end.

In a world that is increasingly moving towards automation for pretty much everything, there exists a future that—perhaps inevitably—will be dominated by autonomous vehicles.

As it stands now, globally, there is a penetration rate of vehicles with Level 4 & 5 automation systems below 10%, and already we’re facing serious issues.

Uber recorded its first autonomous vehicle-related death when one of its test vehicles killed Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona in 2018 (there’s even a Wiki article for the whole debacle), a man in China was killed last year after engaging NIO’s Navigation on Pilot (NOP) system, and perhaps worst of all, two people were killed in June this year after a NIO testing car plummeted off the third floor of a parking garage at the company’s Shanghai headquarters.

Autonomous cars seem like a novel idea, and that’s clearly the trend among major car manufacturers around the world. “Should we go electric?” asks an engineer at a team meeting. “No,” says the CEO. “We’re going driverless.”

But what will the world look like after we get rid of cars with human drivers? Are roads really made safer by removing the human element? And above all, are we going to get cool-looking car “pods” and vertical roads like in the movie Minority Report? I’m asking the hard-hitting questions, I know. But let’s be honest, if autonomous cars are anything like what we’ve seen with well-known autonomous vacuum brands so far, we’re in for a lot of headaches.

Despite this, the idea of autonomous cars is intriguing. “Think of all the time you’ll save,” they say. In reality, we all like to think we’ll be productive given the added benefit of more time, but let’s be real, time spent being chauffeured around by a robot or some algorithm will be spent watching people dance on TikTok or staring out the window wondering how we ever got to this point.

Autonomous vehicles might be a game changer if every vehicle is autonomous. The issue, however, is the human element. Even if 95% of cars globally are autonomous, but 5% of people still insist on driving, there are going to be issues.

Humans are, naturally, flawed, and when it comes to driving, we’re no exception. We fall asleep at the wheel, absent-mindedly shift lanes, eat, text, and when AI is faced with these flaws that make us human, is that a recipe for disaster?

The more important question is: Once we reach 100% penetration rate of autonomous vehicles, will we be better off as a society? Or simply lazier?

All opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of KrASIA. Questions, concerns, or fun facts can be sent to [email protected]

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