Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

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Robert66
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Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Robert66 » March 24th, 2018, 5:08 pm

The recent death of a pedestrian, hit by a self-driving car (an AV) in Arizona, has prompted my return to these Forums. There has been much discussion of the event and of its significance, but I have been frustrated by the lack of philosophising found in these discussions. They tend to zero in on the issue of blame, and to be characterised by generalisations regarding the technology deployed in AVs. I am hoping that this Philosophy forum will be the place for a wider and more nuanced discussion of what I see as an important and intriguing topic.

I have one (two part) question to ask, followed by a couple of points and scenarios to consider.

Q: Would you buy and/or use an AV? Why/why not?

Consider:

1.) AVs promise great things. Primarily, their promoters argue, they will reduce accidents and fatalities. I think this will be true, but considering the driving behaviour observable at present, where many self-interested drivers eschew a cooperative approach which would lead to safer and more efficient roads, I am skeptical about the unqualified safety claims being made. At some point each AV must be programmed to react in response to critical scenarios which will arise, such as a pedestrian crossing the road in an unusual location with reduced visibility. The "Trolley Problem" has been widely discussed in relation to AVs. Regulatory bodies would no doubt try to ensure that AVs were all programmed to respond in a safety-maximising, casualty-minimising, Utilitarian way. I believe that the promoters of AVs are wrong in an assumption I have noticed in discussions, which lumps all AVs together ("AVs will do this, AVs do that ...) AVs will vary, just as today's cars vary. I can imagine a future in which those who can afford to will purchase after-market software which alters any "decision-making" done by the AV in their (the owner's) favour. When such software becomes available, who would purchase the "Utilitarian" AV which could in certain situations, avoid a greater fatality at the cost of the AV owner's own life?

*My conclusion: The Market will determine the kind of AVs which we will increasingly see on our roads. Woebetide any Government which would seek in these neo-liberal times to interfere with a company such as Uber or Google or Tesla in their quest to provide customers with the best in anti-social, self- and family-presrving technology.

On a slight tangent, the technology necessary to prevent vehicle collisions in most cases (eg auto-braking which prevents a car from getting too close to the vehicle ahead - invented by Mercedes-Benz c.1995; more recent inadvertent lane-changing prevention) has been available for some time, yet Governments/regulators have not insisted on the incorporation of these and other technologies. Why not?


2.) AVs have potential to reduce traffic congestion in cities becoming more and more crowded. It is possible to imagine that in a well-planned city of the future, the number of vehicles actually required by a neighbourhood could be reduced significantly. Vehicles could be stored and charged at a central facility, then called by the user when needed. Rides could be shared. The need for private garaging and street parking could be removed. But first one or two changes must occur: a threshold must be reached beyond which a city ceases to function due to traffic congestion, there is a "mass realisation" that the initial promise of the automobile as a "freedom machine" has been false for decades, ruined by the fact that too many want to get to the same location at the same time, and that some form of public transport is preferable.

*My conclusion: People will continue to do dumb **** despite the rational part of their brain screaming at them to stop, and the traffic congestion/aversion to public transport evident in many places will get worse, but I do believe that a point will be reached, individually and over time collectively, where drastic change will be called for. Concepts like "ride-sharing" may seem dangerously Socialist to many now, but I hope that will change.

Sorry for the long OP, but I do think that not enough attention is being paid to the broader, social implications which will arise with this burgeoning technological development. If societies could properly plan for and implement AV use, great benefits could result, like some roads being freed up for pedestrian/recreational use, even revegetation.

My answer to the question is No. I doubt that the many issues related to AVs will be satisfactorily resolved in my lifetime, or that I would be able to afford an AV. I will continue to drive (as little as possible) a conventional vehicle, in a very cautious, and cooperative way. When walking or cycling I will continue to abide by the principle that drivers have not seen me, and even if they have they don't necessarily care about my safety. Anyway I hope to move back to the country before too long, and leave a city which could be as close to paradise as any city could be, were it not for transport "planners" and developers who have steadily set about ruining Sydney during my lifetime.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Alias » March 25th, 2018, 12:00 pm

Would you buy and/or use an AV? Why/why not?
Yes, if I could afford it.
I am 71, with failing eyesight and intermittent hearing problems. In a few years, I will not be competent or safe on the highway.
That means I have to give up my home in the country, or get someone else to drive me into town for medical appointments and supplies. An AV would assure me the freedom and independence I very much don't look forward to losing.
I strongly suspect that, after taxi and delivery fleet owners, the biggest market for these cars will be old people. And we are legion!

I find it - not odd; I suppose all novelty is newsworthy - unfair to make such a production-number out of the single traffic fatality involving a robot car, while the media paid no attention to the 120 or so pedestrian fatalities involving human-driven cars on the same day. The same thing happened when a truck with a professional human driver at its wheel bumped a stationary autonomous shuttle bus. The fender-bender would normally have been too trivial to be mentioned in any news medium, but because the bus was a novelty, the headlines read: "Driverless bus crashes an hour after launch!" and similar slanders.

I think there is a deep distrust of these cars. Irrational, of course, because, as you say, many autonomous features are taken for granted in mass market vehicles. People are leery and reporters, looking for a sensation, a controversy, an issue, exploit that suspicion: they jump on each setback in the testing process as if it were not a normal part of change (progress)

Yes, a whole class of jobs - millions of jobs - will disappear. That happens with every technological advance, and the societies of the near future will have to deal with it. Many other computerized and automated services and processes are so normal that people don't even notice their dependency. Not much of an outcry against automated bank-tellers these days.
They might even learn to reassign people now working at tedious, stressful, soul and health-killing jobs to rendering much-needed aid to their fellow human beings.

Once the traffic system is organized to accommodate all the automated public, private and rental transportation, cities will become a whole lot safer, cleaner and more pleasant. My grandchildren will wonder what the fuss was about.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by LuckyR » March 26th, 2018, 4:00 am

No. Why would I pay extra for something that reduces my enjoyment of transportation and does the job less efficiently?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Greta » March 26th, 2018, 5:49 pm

I would love to have an AV. It would change my life. Aside from having the navigational skills of a jellyfish, I find modern traffic conditions with so many gigantic 4WD vehicles everywhere too intimidating to drive today. I do not understand why cars keep getting bigger as traffic becomes more intense.

In Rome, almost everyone drives tiny cars in response to heavy traffic. If they mostly had large cars the city would simply stop in gridlock. However, in Sydney almost everyone selfishly buys gigantic SUVs that exacerbate the heavy traffic issues and destroy visibility for other drivers, making driving unsafe unless one joins the "arms race" - or has an autonomous vehicle.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Eduk » March 29th, 2018, 4:01 pm

It's the fashion Greta it doesn't have to make sense. Although having said that I also think fear has a large part to play, although it's a fashionable fear, so I'm back to fashion, sorry.
Regarding the OP.
The trolley problem in the real world is almost impossible so if the AI has been programmed right or wrong won't make any difference.
People won't get the choice of the selfish option. Of course as you say criminals will still be criminals.
I will buy one as soon as I think it makes sense to do so. It feels inevitable they will outperform me at some point and offer faster, cheaper, safer travel. I wouldn't have been the first person to get in a plane but these days I wouldn't take a boat to China.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by LuckyR » March 31st, 2018, 1:24 am

Eduk wrote:
March 29th, 2018, 4:01 pm
It's the fashion Greta it doesn't have to make sense. Although having said that I also think fear has a large part to play, although it's a fashionable fear, so I'm back to fashion, sorry.
Regarding the OP.
The trolley problem in the real world is almost impossible so if the AI has been programmed right or wrong won't make any difference.
People won't get the choice of the selfish option. Of course as you say criminals will still be criminals.
I will buy one as soon as I think it makes sense to do so. It feels inevitable they will outperform me at some point and offer faster, cheaper, safer travel. I wouldn't have been the first person to get in a plane but these days I wouldn't take a boat to China.
I don't think so. The programmers aren't going to allow the car to break the speed limit as they would be liable and it would void any fancy contractual language they would make you sign to complete the purchase.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Eduk » March 31st, 2018, 3:33 am

LuckyR I can't tell if you are being serious?

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Greta » March 31st, 2018, 6:29 pm

Eduk, I'd expect the cars to be programmed to drive at the limit where it can, but never over.

However, there will come a time when the organised flow of automated traffic will be immensely more efficient that the relatively chaotic situation on the reads at present.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by LuckyR » April 1st, 2018, 1:35 am

Eduk wrote:
March 31st, 2018, 3:33 am
LuckyR I can't tell if you are being serious?
So you expect the program to make the car break the speed limit?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Eduk » April 1st, 2018, 4:13 am

Well first off as Greta points out traffic congestion will be vastly reduced. But why do we have the speed limits we have? And why would a computer need the same limits?

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by calm-realm » April 2nd, 2018, 4:44 am

Robert66 wrote:
March 24th, 2018, 5:08 pm
I doubt that the many issues related to AVs will be satisfactorily resolved in my lifetime
I do not understand your point arguing that people will continue to be better drivers than computers in the near future. Driving is a very mechanical (and simple) procedure, machines outgrow nature very fast in this kind of job. I can imagine people looking at the fist cars driving as fast as a person can walk and thinking: "this would never be as fast as a horse". For me, it is clear that the car will drive better than all of us. Personally, I belive they already would if the streets were made for them. The machines just need to get better, and the environment should be better adapted for them too.

Given the perfect conditions computers do a perfect job, like on many computer race-games with zero accidents. What happens when there are "random" factors or the sensors fail? People might get hurt. We should compare two things: 1. How often does that happen, and what are the consequences? 2.How often accidents occur because of human-error (like getting dristacted, sleeping on the wheel), and what are the consequences in this case?

It does not have to be perfect, just better than a person, because then it is an improvement. If we can gather the facts (do not mind sensationalist media as pointed out), we would have the answer. An objective answer, and I would follow the conclusion of this analysis.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Halc » April 2nd, 2018, 1:20 pm

LuckyR wrote:
March 26th, 2018, 4:00 am
No. Why would I pay extra for something that reduces my enjoyment of transportation and does the job less efficiently?
Your choice, and very much the choice of others, at least until they become mandatory due to demonstrable increase of safety. For now, I'd not consider one without manual override. They're starting to make some with no controls at all.
If mandatory, speed limits might go up a bit, and spacing between cars could be reduced, significantly reducing congestion. If all are AV, reaction times are less and more distance must be maintained only for vehicles like trucks which decelerate more slowly.

I am such a person probably moved by enjoyment and efficiency. I drive a fairly primitive vehicle with manual transmission, and enjoy getting better fuel efficiency from it than any hybrid. I figure about 23km/liter, depending on the sort of road I'm on. I don't use GPS and am not dependent on it.

How does an AV deal with a "road-closed at bridge" (say 6 km distant bridge) sign? I suppose it needs manual input to adjust route accordingly. What if the car decides your immediate safety trumps your urgency and refuses to proceed? I've had to drive home (from 2 hours distance) with no brakes or maybe a broken clutch cable. Those would halt an AV. The clutch thing just means there is a high price to stopping anywhere that isn't down-hill. The brakes thing just means I had to use other means to stop, and significant grades are not viable.

About speeding, yes, they might go a little over the limit, but not a lot without violating the liability agreements, and there are actual local laws to keep pace with traffic, with tickets issued for the one driver doing the limit, inhibiting the general flow that might be 20km/h over the limit. How is that programmed in?
An AV puts a huge liability on the manufacturer than has been previously borne by the driver. My insurance rates might go down with an AV, but the thing costs so much partly because the rates for the manufacturer must be passed on. As for the trolley problem, would the car sacrifice it's occupant to save several others? If this was disclosed up front, would you buy one car over the next one due to its stated difference on this policy? They're going to be reluctant to program priorities that negatively impact sales.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Eduk » April 2nd, 2018, 6:10 pm

The story of driving without breaks reminds me of a time a long time ago in university when I tried to carefully explain that driving while stoned was not a good idea.
I also love the negativety of the trolley problem. Forgetting the probability of the situation.

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Eduk » April 3rd, 2018, 4:39 am

Just noticed my typo. Brakes not breaks. Two very different things :)

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Re: Pros and Cons of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Post by Greta » April 3rd, 2018, 5:11 am

Driving without breaks made sense in context - causing impairment akin to being intoxicated.

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