Thursday, February 2, 2017

The driverless cars are coming

The first article, by Adage, focuses mainly on autonomous driving’s impact on the marketing strategies of car companies.  While this advance has ramifications for brand identities of companies like BMW (The Ultimate Driving Machine), it has also caused some fear in its effects if fully autonomous vehicles were released.  One major critique of this development is not so much about the development itself, but about the lack of development in autonomous vehicles.  Many companies shy away from using autonomy or “driverless” in their descriptions, for fear of panicking the consumers or making attention to detail and experiencing driving kind of null and void.  This fear of alienating driving from car buying has caused many car companies to slow down the release of autonomous driving technology and even rename and remarket some of the already released technology.  Some examples are like listed in the article like self parking or parking assist, or driver assist and automatic stop.  In addition to the car companies’ fears about autonomous cars, many other companies like cab companies are also an inhibiting factor for furthering autonomous vehicles.  Companies like Uber Technologies, however, are looking to embrace this technology, while regulations seem to stringently oppose this driverless model.  So in all, much of the critique about autonomous driving is that most of its inhibitors are born out of fear.  Most of the technology required for autonomous driving is already here, and we are not utilizing them yet.  
            The second article from Business Insider discusses the new autonomous driving test tracks being built around the U.S.  This article, although highlighting the steps forward toward autonomous cars, also highlights some of the fear involved with autonomous cars.  There are test tracks being built to test the artificial intelligence of these cars, and log time to further study these vehicles in a controlled environment.  While the article does seem hesitant about the abilities and capabilities of autonomous vehicles, it does mention the increasing consumer trust in this new technology, and the growing accessibility as well.  In addition, the article says that the repetition of controlled scenarios will help AIs learn to handle real driving scenarios, but tells little about the nature of these conditions.  The article strives to comfort consumers who seem to not be as concerned with the new technology as certain car companies and lawmakers seem to be.  While tech companies like Google and Uber are looking to embrace the incoming technology with driverless taxis and road-legal, fully autonomous vehicles, there are still many hurdles to overcome, and forces pushing back against the rush of technological advancement. 

Both articles neglect to mention the economic ramifications of the lack of drivers behind the wheel, while focusing mainly on the perspective of car companies and legislators.  Botha articles also seem to avoid the possible increased safety of driverless cars (less drunk drivers, etc.).  The development of autonomous vehicles is using advanced, Jetson-like technology that many have thought seemed far-off into the future.   The fact of the matter is that the future is now, and this technology has been integrated into our cars for several years now, under clever names like “driver assist,” and “self parking cars.”  Regardless of the fear, autonomous cars are on their way into the general markets very soon, and even legislation can only stave it off for so long.

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