How self-driving cars will change our lives


The Appalachian Online

Matt Zothner

The future of transportation is almost here, and by future, I mean self-driving cars. In close to a decade’s time, these intelligent robotic systems will control millions of cars on a daily basis instead of humans, and for the better.

There are many people like me, who unfortunately have had friends die in car accidents. It’s an all too familiar thing to hear on the news, and despite more regulation in car safety, the roads aren’t getting better.

Though unintentional, most deaths occur for reasons such as distraction, speeding, reckless driving and drunk driving. According to the CDC, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death in teenagers.

These numbers haven’t gone down even with safer cars on the road and more punishable laws in effect, leaving driving to be arguably the single most dangerous activity people do on a day-to-day basis.

Autonomous cars will decrease the danger of driving in multiple ways. For example, they don’t get distracted, break the law or start to doze off. They can also take you home when you have gone out drinking or pick you up without needing a taxi or friend to rely on. As a result, they will revolutionize the transportation industry and our society as a whole.

The companies involved in creating these autonomous cars are as exciting as one would think; Google, Tesla, Mercedes and Toyota are among the crowd making strides to develop this technology. Analysts can’t forecast how soon this technology will be put to use on a daily basis, but they understand how quickly it is developing. According to International Business Times, the CEOs of Google and Tesla have said they will have semi-autonomous cars on the road by 2020.

As will all innovative technology, there are groups in the driving community – those driving for a living – who believe that either the cars won’t work as intended or that people will use them for possible harm. Though there is backlash from the driving community, the potential advantages outweigh the potential obstacles. According to the Department of Transport in the UK, the advantages include lower fuel consumption, more productivity, less traffic, quicker commutes, lower to no car insurance, reduction of parking lots and fewer accidents.

Autonomous cars will most likely change how future generations see and think of driving, leading me to wonder if future generations will ever dream of buying sports cars or even getting their licenses.

Autonomous vehicles will become as useful as smart phones are today, while also saving our precious time and money on the road. No one can predict the effect that self-driving cars will have on the economy, but we can predict that society is going to adapt to any technology that looks to save lives and push innovation. I, for one, can’t wait to sleep on the way to work.

Zothner, a sophomore marketing major from Cary, is an opinion writer.

STORY: Matt Zothner, Opinion Writer