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Automated Cars Are Here (oh, wait)
We were promised 10 million self-driving cars this year. Guess what happened?
We’re nearing the end of 2020 and all those fully automated self-driving cars promised by Toyota, Nissan and Elon Musk are finally here.
According to Business Insider, you should have seen some of those 10 million automated cars on the roads today.
What, you haven’t seen any? That’s strange, let me check how many are actually out there.
Okay, here it is. The exact number of fully automated vehicles on the road today is:
That’s right, despite all the rosy predictions from the car companies and media, we will end the year without a single fully automated vehicle.
We did get kind of close. In the last week, Elon Musk announced that a select group of Tesla owners could download a fully automated software package for their car.
But the driver still needs to be ready to take over at a moment’s notice, so it’s not really fully automated.
Yes, it’s disappointing. But self-driving is just a lot harder than people thought. Some experts like the roboticist Rodney Brooks knew this would happen.
During an interview a few years ago, he scoffed at the idea of self-driving cars. He asked people to imagine how a fully automated car that follows EVERY law would manage to get around the congested roads of his hometown Boston.
They won’t cross a solid yellow line to steer around a moving van parked on the road, or sneak down a one-way street to avoid a jam, or do any of the minor illegal things we do as drivers all the time.
The laws and rules that govern our roads — and a lot else in our lives — are no match for good old human common sense. Sometimes you need to cheat. Automated cars won’t, and that’s a problem among many others.
Okay, it’s now 2020 and the predictions were wrong, which means this is a perfect opportunity for … another prediction, like this new paper from the University of Tennessee.
It’s mostly a rehash of the usual points about automated driving but some oddities jumped out at me. So if you’re still feeling optimistic about self-driving cars, read on for 3 of the more unusual things that might happen if they finally arrive.
Drugs and prostitution
Definitely not the first thing that comes to mind but fully automated cars will provide some interesting opportunities for vice.
Instead of paying for sex in a hotel, the sex worker travels to the client in an automated vehicle that acts like a mobile hotel. The client and sex worker get more flexibility on the time and place to meet, and they both benefit from more security because an automated car can sound an alarm when something goes wrong.
Drug dealers and users also benefit, but with a bonus. One study found that over 90% of drug busts in vehicles occurred after police stopped the driver for minor traffic infractions.
Automated cars don’t break the law, so no more drug busts in cars.
In America, cars hit over 1 million deer every year, causing $4 billion of damage. If you count all the birds, mammals and reptiles that are killed by cars, the toll is about 1 million animals every single day, just in America.
Automated cars could slash this number through a combination of better sensors, faster response times and the use of real time data from other vehicles warning about animals ahead.
Artificially intelligent cars are also nicer than people. A study in Canada found that about 3% of drivers run over reptiles on purpose.
About 40,000 Americans are killed in car accidents every year, usually due to speeding, reckless driving or use of alcohol and drugs.
So we can expect self-driving cars to save a lot of lives. Great news!
But not for everyone. It also means more people will live into old age, which will put more pressure on already creaky health and pension services.
And it’s really bad news for people in line for organ transplants.
Car accidents supply 33% of all organs for people who desperately need a replacement.
So there you go. Three more things to expect when millions of fully automated cars take over our roads.