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What Torontonians should be concerned about ‘Driverless cars’

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Driverless cars – It appears everyone is now into the business of driverless vehicles; from Tesla to GM, Ford, Nissan, Volvo, Chrysler and more. The technology has advanced greatly, but it is far from perfected and perhaps will never really be. After all, the vehicles rely on one main component, computer systems. We all know how vulnerable our own computers are to breaking down or being hacked by those seeking to cause havoc. It’s a constant war of updates and fixes – and the data from driverless vehicles shared over the internet has the potential to be just as vulnerable.

Beside the threat of cyber-attacks, there are several other issues to address. People have caused accidents jumping in front of driverless vehicles for fun – to see if they would stop. In May of 2016 a fourty-year old man died when his Tesla Autopilot vehicle collided with a truck making a left turn on a Florida highway. The vehicle was unable to recognize the truck.

Driverless Bus EZ10 Singapore – Photo EasyMile

There are also voices of concern rising, not only about driverless vehicles but about the advancement of technology in general. A question being asked is; what about the ‘disconnect’ from human interaction? Instead of computer technology connecting us more with life, we are becoming more and more disconnected, literally and virtually. We have ‘friends’ on social media we will never meet and ‘visit’ places we will never step foot in, including areas close to home. There is a false sense of intimacy created and one can just press the ‘delete’ button or simply ‘leave the conversation’ at any time.

The idea of just getting in a car, sitting back while drinking a cup of coffee or getting some work done while being driven to a chosen destination does sound appealing, but one could do that just as easily on a train or in a taxi – the latter of which seems to be the direction companies in the driverless vehicle business are now concentrating on.

Manufacturers of driverless vehicles have turned their focus towards the public transit area, like taxis. There is Uber’s driverless taxi fleet in the making, as well as Lyft and NuTonomy (who for two years already has autonomous taxis on the roads of Singapore).

Volvo Self-Driving – Photo Volvo

The idea of not having a human behind the wheel might be good for some people, for several reasons (including the freedom to be glued to their mobile devices), but for others who like the idea of being able to talk to their driver, even if only to ask about the weather or the score in a hockey game, it could be something they would miss.

Technology is rapidly advancing no matter what and it will continue to greatly impact the way we live, positively or negatively. The younger generation, those who have grown up with computers in their hands since childhood are more at risk of a negative impact. Studies have shown that our youth are spending hours upon hours on their computer devices, with anywhere from two to nine hours a day – and that does not include time spent on devices in school. The ‘disconnect’ is a serious problem and the effect is seen everywhere – the online, plugged-in addiction is strong.

Google Driverless Car – Photo Google

Not all advancements in computer technology are negative, as there are some amazing things being done in sciences and with increased productivity in many areas. I might not have been able to write this in time for deadline if not for the internet where I could do a good part of my research. Nor would I be able to reach such a wide audience. And I also like watching cute puppy videos in between drafts.

In the end, how much disconnect can humanity handle? Where can (or should) the lines be drawn, if even possible at this point? On the whole, our lives have not been made easier by the advancements. In fact, we are working more hours and sleeping even less. We are in debt and stressed out like never before.

Are driverless cars really needed? Are were in control of the pace of technological advancement – or is it in control of us?

GM Cruise -Driverless Vehicle
Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca
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