fleetdigest April/May 2018
The April/May 2018 issue of fleetdigest is now available online. You can flip through it here, but first, a few words from the Associate Publisher of fleetdigest, Jack Kazmierski.
What Price, Progress?
Is it time to say “No!” to self-driving vehicles?
Self-driving cars, and the people they killed, have been in the news quite a bit lately. Just off the top of my head I can think of the autonomous Uber vehicle that ran over a pedestrian in Arizona, as well as the incident with the Tesla where the driver was killed. Apparently, the Tesla was in autopilot mode at the time of the collision.
These aren’t the first incidents of autonomous vehicles taking lives, and they likely won’t be the last. But what does it all mean? Should we nip the technology in the bud before more lives are lost, or is this the price of progress?
Dawn of the automobile
Historically, this isn’t the first time dramatic changes in technology have taken lives. I recently read a fascinating article in The Detroit News, talking about this very subject. The only difference is that the article was talking about life back in the very early 1900s—just when the automobile was being introduced to the market here in North America.
The article said, “The transition from the horse age to the motorized age would prove to be very dangerous.” And perhaps that’s what we’re seeing today as well. The transition from conventional vehicles to self-driving cars and trucks may very well prove to be “very dangerous.”
That same article pointed out that, “In the first decade of the 20th century there were no stop signs, warning signs, traffic lights, traffic cops, driver’s education, lane lines, street lighting, brake lights, driver’s licenses or posted speed limits.”
Today, we take all of the above for granted. They’re all just part of life in the modern world. But back then, all of these traffic-taming devices were unheard of.
So is it possible that now, living in the pre-autonomous vehicle age, we are yet to hear of safety systems and other technologies that future generations will take for granted? Is it possible that the systems that will eventually prevent self-driving cars from harming humans are still in the pipeline? Perhaps they haven’t even been thought of.
Life wasn’t easy for pedestrians 100 years ago. The Detroit News reported the following: “In 1917, Detroit and its suburbs had 65,000 cars on the road, resulting in 7,171 accidents and 168 fatalities. Three-fourths of the victims were pedestrians.”
What a mess! And yet here we are today, 101 years later, far removed from the realities and challenges of yesteryear. Although we face obstacles today that may seem daunting, perhaps we can draw courage from the past, as we face the future of autonomous vehicles together.