The Future of Google Car
Imagine you are in a Google car on the highway, and you are at risk of collision with a school bus that is carrying children. The car’s computer system has detected a bit of space in the road that provides it with a chance of avoiding a head-on collision with the school bus. Meanwhile, the driver of the school bus has desperately indicated
that he plans to swerve to the same side by the use of his hands. As a passenger, you are incapacitated from altering the course of the vehicle in the attempts of avoiding acollision with the school bus. Although both vehicles will swerve to the right, the Google car can readjust its course swiftly and still avoid collision with the school bus. What happens thereafter is an ugly scene as the terrified driver becomes confused about the course that is safe and crushes the bus. The possibility of this scenario is real when driverless vehicles such as Google cars will be plying the same roads used by cars driven by humans.
This situation presents the many ethical dilemmas that the advancement of technology presents. The first dilemma is the question if it is safe to allow automated systems to replace fundamental human functions such as driving. Although technologies that use a high level of logic are accurate, there are particular areas in the human universe where emotions instead of rationality are supreme (McPheat 292). For instance, the substitution of the Google car with a human being as the driver would have resulted in the car swerving to the left side of the road early enough so that the school bus driver can comfortably serve to the right side of the road.Therefore, the possibility that the school bus driver will lose control of the bus is reduced. Although humans are irrational in their thoughts, they are endowed with emotions that help avert situations where rationality is irrelevant. Meanwhile, the proponents of the replacement of human beings by automated systems claim that human beings have proved that they are disastrous due to the irrational use of their senses. For instance, many accidents are caused by either drunk driving, lack of enough sleep, driving inexperience or the ignorance of vital road signs, limits or features (Poczter and Jankovic 11). Therefore, the introduction of automated systems that are programmed to obey particular rules and regulations provide an improvement to the flawed human thought process. Nevertheless, the replacement of human beings in areas that are considered vital for their normal function in society has serious repercussions. An automated system is programmed to observe and obey rules irrespective of the circumstances. Consequently, there will be many victims of the logical processes that the Google cars use.
Another major dilemma that automated systems present is about the degrading abilities of human beings to think independently. Technologies such as Google search that provide on-demand data to users whenever they need it are proving to be efficient. However, these technologies are rendering the capacities of human beings to think appropriately. Just like the teenagers in M.T. Anderson’s Feed that have been reduced to robots, many people that are reliant on the internet to provide solutions to their problems have become like zombies (Marlina 69). The case of the accident represents a situation where the passenger has been reduced to a passive participant that cannot determine the outcome of significant events that surround him or her. However, a bigger dilemmaconcerns the ability of a few individuals or corporations to control large masses of people by diminishing their thinking capacities in every sector of the society (Bullen and Parsons 13). At home, people are bombarded with information from corporations such as television broadcasting stations that intend to turn the people into machines that satisfy the marketing goals of corporations. Meanwhile, people are negated in the process of transporting themselves by the automated self-driving vehicles.
The self-driving Google car uses a technology that has a light detecting and range motion system (LIDAR) to provide a 3-dimensional view of events around the car. According to Michelle Birdsall (2014), the LIDAR system has historically been used in the Space program to measure and determine the shape of the earth’s surfaces. This system uses light pulses that measure ranges and variables lengths. The results from these light pulses are combined with existing data to produce precise 3-dimensional data about the characteristics of the objects reflecting the light pulses. The kinds of information of objects detected include shape, height, width, velocity and their widths relative to surrounding spaces. The Google cars combine the LIDAR system with high definition cameras that detect the color changes of traffic lights (Anonymous 36). The cameras also synchronize with data from Google servers to confirm if
the information being relayed by the sensors are accurate. Although the vehicles have a GPS system, it is not reliable compared to the sensors and cameras. There is an on-board computing system that exploits the data from the sensors to ideally “see” objects in computer-generated 3D virtual environment (Birdsall 38). This technology system enables the car to avoid hitting moving obstacles like pedestrians and other vehicles that cross its path. Google cars require the existence of pre-programmed maps that inform them of the router they are to take. The Google cars that map roads at the trial stages have to drive repeatedlyon a particular road to record all the details that are on that road. Notably, the cars rely on a combination of logical maps and a virtual map. Whereas the data from virtual maps are used in charting the vehicles movement according to satellites, the logical maps provide backup data to the vehicles that provide details about road signs and physical features such as bridges. Currently, the Google car can detect anything that is surrounding it. For example, the car can detect bikes that are in-between vehicles, which is a hard task for human drivers. Moreover, the car has a faster response time to abrupt objects that come across its path than human beings (Poczter and Jankovic 10). Therefore, the car’s potential for reducing accidents are promising. However, the complexity of the car’s process at interpreting both the logical and virtual map restrict its usage to predestined routes that Google has mapped thoroughly.
Google cars represent the dystopian future where the humans have been dispossessed their cognitive abilities by technologies that are intelligent as human beings. The ability of Google cars to drive themselves by using data feeds symbolizes the hegemony that technology has over the human life (Marlina 71). People’s reliance on the self-driving cars is just one of the many inevitable trends that enslave the human mind to corporations that are the sources and generators of information. Consequently, large corporations will influence and dictate many events in the world. Notably, human lives and the right to self-determination are under threat because they are no longer in control of their thoughts (Bullen and Parsons). Just like the google cars they drive, people’s understanding and judgment will depend on the type of information that corporations allow them to have. It is imperative to realize that wealth will be exclusive to few people who have the financial resources to create or acquire the corporations that monopolize the access to data and information. Passengers boarding these vehicles will be passive participants whose fates will depend on the accuracy and the timing of information that is being consumed by these Google cars (Martin). For instance, a mistake in the coding of the programs that control the operations of these vehicles is likely to lead to negative consequences whose magnitudes are large. A programming error that misdirects the vehicles to a collision will cause simultaneous accidents all over the world. Moreover, there is a danger that people’s movements will be restricted and under constant surveillance. Most, if not allGoogle cars are linked together, and they link to a single computational center. Therefore, the live data that these cars transmit back to the central computational center can be abused to survey and control the movement patterns of individuals. The use of high-level technologies is likely to increase the social divide in regards to economic classes. The high-level technologies in use in the Google cars require a high amount of investments in terms of capital and human resources. In addition, the time spent to ensure that these vehicles work correctly are very long. Consequently, the corporations manufacturing these vehicles will have to sell them at very expensive prices to recuperate the financial investments they made. The high prices of the vehicles will make the cars unaffordable to a significant number of people.
Despite the apparent dangers of the Google cars, these cars represent a utopian future where people are likely to be safer, punctual, and less worried. The increased safety is a resultant of the precision of the Google cars. Currently, many people are unsafe on the roads due to the many distractions that make the drivers inefficient. For example, drivers who are not alert on the steering wheel because they probably lack sufficient sleep periods mostly cause accidents in the nights. An estimated 1.25 million people die because of road accidents (McKinsey Global Institute 15). Apart from the death causalities, the economic losses attributable to accidents are astronomical. For instance, the USA reports that over $ 300 US dollars are spent in covering costs that include medical, legal, and physical damage. Therefore, Google vehicles provide a safer alternative.
Another change in people’s culture will be in regards to the design of their roads and cities. The Google cars use specific designs and road signs to function properly. Therefore, majority of the regions of the world will have to redesign their cities and roads to comply with the specific designs that enable Google cars to function properly (McKinsey Global Institute 9). Therefore, many cities and roads will appear similar in their designs, which removes some of the pride that was previously associated with particular cities. Notably, the design of cities to comply with technical requirements of the Google cars will improve the punctuality of transport systems. In this case, the cars will communicate with each other and coordinate in terms of the speeds and distances that they will accord each other. Therefore, the issue of traffic jams will be rare, which results to the punctuality of the passengers.
Another cultural revolution can be evident in the ownership and use of vehicles. Currently, many people own a personal vehicle because of the feel that is associated with owning and driving a particular car. However, owning a driverless car will negate the driving experience. For instance, a person’s vehicle will act as an extension of the person’s home. One can eat, drink, read a newspaper while in the comfort of the vehicle. Personal ownership of the car might be transformed into communal ownership. A driverless car does not need to park in one place since it can move itself around. Therefore, people could just hop inside any vehicle that is moving around and be taken to their destination. In essence, the distinction between private means of transportation and private means will be eliminated. The problem of parking lots in the cities will be eliminated as the Google cars will always be moving around. Notably, the need for traffic police will be negated as it will be impossible to humanly intervene in traffic incidents that involve driverless cars such as Google cars.
In conclusion, Google cars are destined to be adopted as means of transport. These cars present better solutions to problems such as accidents and inefficiencies that result from traffic jams and human errors.