Group 4 2014 : Autonomous Vehicle


Innovation has taken a new route in dealing with automobiles. Nowadays, car companies are creating ideas that involve cars that can drive themselves. Some cars today now have sensors to help people park, tell you whether there is a car in your blind spot, and radar-equipped cruise control that can sense other vehicles and accelerate or brake as needed. These advancements in cars give just a teaser on the broader image of where the automobile industry can head. Although flying cars may never happen, cars that can drive itself is already here in prototype form. The following proposals presents the idea on how autonomous vehicles can impact our lives and society with its economic, legal, social, and ethical implications.


The idea of autonomous car is both very exciting and chilling at the same time. Some think it is amazing that technology has come to the point where we might not have the need to ever put our hands on a steering wheel again. This same fact also frightens people. The first driverless car dates back to the 1920’s when Houdina Radio Control demonstrated their radio controlled car called the “linrrican Wonder”. The car received radio waves through its antennae from a car traveling behind it, which then introduced the signals to circuit-breakers connected to several motors to control every movement of the vehicle, almost like a life sized RC car some might think. We have definitely come a long way from radio controlled cars, as the cars being introduced in this day in age, are one’s that don’t need someone else “telling” it what to do, rather, these cars rely on their own “senses” and “decisions” to get from point A to point B.

Many companies such as Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Volvo and many others are making the move towards driverless car’s, sometimes referred to as “robot”, “autonomous”, and “self-driving” cars, but the one company that seems to stand above all in advancing this movement is Google. Google introduced one of their driverless cars’, Stanley, which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, winning two million US dollars from the United States Department of Defense. To date, they have introduced several of their prototype autonomous cars to the real world where they have seen the streets and been tested in densely populated urban areas such as San Francisco California, totaling up to 300,000 autonomous, accident free miles. Google’s self driving car uses an array of sensors and gadgets including lasers, radar, cameras, navigation devices, and more, to gather information about its surroundings, including but not limited to, traffic lights, pedestrians, and cyclists. It then creates a 3D image that is used to determine it’s decision making through distant computer farms.

Autonomous cars are creating a lot of discussion in today’s society by examining what they do, how they do it, and how the phenomena affects our society. The issue arises then, should we allow for further development and funding of driverless cars, considering the legal, ethical, social, safety, and economical implications they have on our society?

Legal Considerations

To date, only four states including Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan are currently allowing by law, the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Clearly, law has not caught up with the technology and there is much debate to be carried out to bring it up to speed.

Some topics to be covered are those of liability issues stemming from the notion of driverless cars. It seems inevitable that accidents will occur, the question of who is liable is one that has yet to be settled within various states. If a passenger isn’t the one driving, surely they can’t be held liable, so how should future accidents be handled? Proponents of self-driving vehicles have proposed a products liability law with respect to autonomous vehicles. It provides the framework for seeking remedies when a product is defective and causes harm to persons or property. The most commonly encountered theories of liability in products liability lawsuits tend to be that of negligence, strict liability, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty. Advocates of driverless cars have given examples of how these theories might apply in the case of autonomous vehicles.

Negligence: Product manufacturers will need to exercise a certain degree of care when designing products so that they may be safe when used in foreseeable ways. Plaintiff’s in a products liability case, could file a negligence claim and could argue that injury was directly related to a manufacturer's negligent failure to anticipate certain events in the foreseeable use of the product.

Strict Liability: Sometimes a product will be shipped with defects, even after the manufacturer has exercised all possible care in attempt to producing safe products. In this case, the issue of manufacturer negligence is removed from the picture altogether, and the manufacturer is held “strictly” liable for injuries to consumers when a product contains an unreasonably dangerous defect.

Misrepresentation: Liability for misrepresentation can occur when a person undergoes harm after reasonably relying on the information provided by the manufacturer about it’s products capabilities. For instance, an autonomous vehicle manufacturer that advertises that human intervention of control is only necessary rarely, can be held liable in the case where damage is incurred to someone who needed to take over the wheel every several minutes. In this case, a misrepresentation of the products capabilities was displayed, and the manufacturer may be held liable in court.

Breach of Warranty: Promises made by a seller to a prospective buyer in association with the sale of good is considered to be an express warranty. This may be in the form of actual vehicle warranty, provided by a seller, but can also happen through advertising of a certain product. If the express warranty doesn’t amount to the cars actual capabilities, one may file for breach of warranty regarding the performance of the system.

We have seen through these guidelines that liability cases can in fact be handled when dealing with accidents caused by robot cars, however, further discussion and debate must be carried out in order to address the various aspects of the issue.

So far, only four states have passed laws permitting the use and testing of autonomous cars including Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan, as well as the District Of Columbia. Clearly, there is a long road ahead for law implementation of autonomous vehicles.

Ethical Considerations

The idea of robot ethics is one that has been tossed around back and forth but that has not been truly settled, nor will it in the near future given our present technological capabilities. We have a good starting point when it comes to this discussion, mainly, Isaac Asimov’s three proposed laws of robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws.

The problem is, at our current level of coding through programming and technology, we couldn't yet model this through our robots. Robots don’t understand concepts as abstract as “harm” or “protection”, they merely perform in ways solely modeled by human characteristics to a certain extent, and it will be some time from now before we get to this point.
With driverless cars, the brains behind their decision making skills will need to assess situations where humans might be at risk for harm or injury. Imagine a scenario where a bus full of children crosses the path of a driverless car also carrying a handful of passengers. The machine can either attempt to swerve out of the way, potentially harming its own passengers, or it can carry on and potentially injure several kids on the bus. In manufacturing of self-driving cars, programmers will need to consider the vast amount of foreseeable scenarios, as well as provide guidelines for the unforeseeable when it comes to making these ethical decisions. In order to accomplish this we must seek to put together a code of ethics that is most sound with our current 21’st century morality beliefs. In doing so, we can have certain standards that will provide guidelines for software developers to implement in regards to the ethical decisions that a self-driving car may face.
Social Implications

While the production of an autonomous car is something that seems very exciting and innovative, many people fear that this invention will have many negative side-effects that people have yet to think about, with the first of these potential side effects being job loss.

Those that specialize in driving vehicles as their main form of income (such as a taxi driver, commercial trucker, etc.) are extremely worried that autonomous cars will replace them and take over their jobs completely in the near future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 there were over 654 thousand bus drivers, 233 thousand taxi drivers and chauffeurs, and over 1.5 million trucking jobs in the United States. These workers fear that if autonomous cars begin to take over, and are able to drive the same vehicles they do more safely and effectively, many, if not all of these people who work these jobs will be indefinitely replaced and out of a job for good. Luckily, this is not the case.

In fact, it seems that there are more than enough jobs to go around, especially in the trucking industry. In 2012, when the United States was still facing hard economic times, there were nearly 200,000 open trucking jobs across the country. Why you ask? According to David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association the answer is quite simple: “Nobody wants to drive a truck”. In fact, instead of jobs decreasing in the future, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that nearly 330,100 new trucking jobs will be added from 2010 to 2020. This addition is an increase of around 20%, something that most fields of work would be absolutely thrilled to announce. Though, still thousands upon thousands of these exact trucking jobs remained unfilled. Not only do Americans simply not want to drive trucks for a living, the training that one must undergo can be extremely demanding and costly. To become certified to drive an industrial truck takes around 8-weeks of training, and cost nearly $6,000 to complete. Yet even once hired, many people do not remain in the job for long. The life of an industrial trucker, or anyone that drives for a living can be quite a long and lonely one with erratic hours, and poor living conditions. Many people that are hired simply decide that the transportation industry is not the life for them, so they quickly quit and opt to try and find another job instead (Trucking Jobs).

With this being said, the rise of safe and effective autonomous cars would not be taking jobs away from any Americans, instead they would begin doing the jobs that many American do not want to do. With such a large increase in driver-related jobs approaching in the near future, someone, or thing, must step up to the plate and begin working. Autonomous robots will offer a solution for companies that are desperately looking to hire people for jobs that do not seem as attractive to Americans as they once were, offering a win-win, and economic solution for everyone.

Safety Considerations

Another area of concern people have about the rise of autonomous cars is their safety, or the possible lack thereof. Google, one of the main proponents and driving forces behind the creation of the autonomous vehicle states that you should not be worried about the idea of self-driving vehicles being on the road with you, as they actually can drive better than you do. In 2013, Google gathered data from one of their self-driving cars. This particular car had driven thousands of miles on roads between the states of Nevada and California, and had not once caused a single accident, yet had been involved in an accident when a human driver who was not paying attention to the road rear-ended the autonomous car. Upon examining the data contained in the autonomous car, it was revealed that Google’s car slowed down in appropriate fashion before being struck by the human-operated vehicle (Robot Cars).

Though people may worry about the idea of eventually driving alongside autonomous cars on the road and highways throughout the United States, they actually should feel quite safe. Data gathered by not only Google, but also by other car companies that are in the works to produce their own brand of autonomous cars have shown that these autonomous vehicles are able to accelerate and break much sharper than humans can and use computer guided systems to maintain a safe traveling distance from the car in front of them at all times. Maintaining a safe traveling distance from the car in front of you is something humans often struggle with, and is oftentimes the cause of many rear-ended accidents. When a side-by-side comparison was conducted between the autonomous vehicle and a professional driver, not surprisingly the data showed it was Google’s autonomous vehicle that drove much safer (Robot Cars).

With many Americans fearing that a large loss of jobs as well as many more accidents will result from the rise of autonomous vehicles, data has shown that this is simply not true. Instead, these autonomous vehicles can be used to do perform the jobs that no Americans are willing to do, and will drastically decrease the amount of accidents on the road. This second fact is extremely important, and one Americans should support and be greatly looking forward to. In 2012 alone, there were nearly 31,000 people killed while driving on the road in America, with nearly 10.8 million accidents occurring in 2009. Luckily, autonomous vehicles have the ability to drastically reduce these numbers, providing safety to Americans driving on the road. While many people worry about the social implications that can possibly occur from the rise of autonomous vehicles, they instead should be worrying about how long it will take to make these cars a reality (Motor Vehicles).

Economic Impacts
Development and practical implementation of autonomous vehicle significantly affect the economy of the country in different ways in different sector. One sector it affects is nation’s infrastructure. Automatic vehicle on the road increase the highway capacity by decreasing congestion. It will improve the traffic flows on the road which will help to reduce the cost of infrastructure expenditure. The annual spending of more than 100 billion dollar could be greatly impacted by this in the US and in developing country around the globe.

Job sector will also be affected by the development of driverless car. It plays controversial role on economic development of the jobs and its industry. In one side, autonomous vehicle takes out human workforce from their jobs, while on the other side, it creates new jobs and helps to reduce the cost of workforce in an industry. In the US, millions of dollar is wasting while finding the new employees for commercial vehicle. It costs a lot of money to hire and train new driver than having an autonomous vehicle on the long run. Driverless vehicle not only helps to reduce the cost of new employee hiring but also reduce the cost of benefits employee gets from their jobs.

According to the Aron Smith of CNN news, there are more than 200,000 jobs for truck drivers and are increasing every day in the US. These jobs creating the problem for the US economy because these vacant positions is hard to fill. So, developing of the autonomous industry will help to fill these position out and remove any burden that the US economy is facing.

Another main sector that autonomous vehicle impacts is insurance and health industry. Driverless vehicle can save a lot of lives and money. Automatic or self-driving cars works on the basis of computer algorithm. It is set in way that all kinds of traffic laws being followed. According to the online report on CBS News, more than two millions of car crashes every year and takes about 30,000 lives in the US. These kinds of accidents are increasing every day and it costs the nation annually about 300 billion dollar on auto insurance, healthcare and litigation. So, when autonomous vehicle comes on the road, vehicular accidents decreases significantly due to quicker response to the incidents. The features of autonomous vehicle such as cruise control, on-board navigation, collision avoidance and parking assistance system decrease tremendous amount of incidents that we see on the road. When there is decline in accidents, the cost of auto insurance, healthcare, and legal matters declines. This causes to decrease the cost on economy of the country and helps to stabilize it.

Gas industry is also in effect of the autonomous development. In the US and other countries around the globe spends billions of dollar on the gas industry due to increasing use of motor vehicles. If the driverless vehicle comes into play, the significant amount of gas consumption decreases. Since the autonomous vehicle uses cruse all the time and brakes smoothly, gas mileage will increase decreasing the consumption. Decreasing consumption decrease the economic cost and helps to reduce the gas budget of the country.

Moreover, Driverless vehicles will save great amount of money for the nations’ economy. However, it will greatly affect its own industry. For example, 3D sensor of the Google’s self driving car cost more than 70,000 dollar to install according to the CBS news. When the car comes into the market the price of vehicle will also go over hundred thousand dollar.
Funding for the autonomous vehicle also cost billions of dollar for the economy. It takes more than decade to fully use the autonomous vehicle on the road. We also need to follow all the required laws and procedure to provide safer vehicles. Nevertheless, developing new technologies on the long run will do the benefits and help to thrive the companies like GMC, Toyota, Ford Motors, Nissan etc.


Further development in autonomous cars should be considered and is a viable option for the future of automobiles. It is important to take note of the implications of having autonomous cars and the loss of workers such as bus and taxi drivers. However, economically, having cars that will be able to drive themselves will help save billions of dollars. Cars can have a lighter structure and the production costs can be cheaper due to the safety that the driverless car can pose. Safety should not be of concern to passengers as well as people sharing the roads with driverless cars because they in fact are more precise, alert, and responsive than any human being is. It can be seen that autonomous cars work best when operating at low speed in a simple environment such as a parking lot. Robocars are probably as legal as any other car on the road, given the basic outlines of the common law system.

There are many questions that remain unanswered in terms of the future of driverless cars. Questions such as students having the need to learn how to drive, the loss of job economy for those teachers, insurance for autonomous drivers, and the effect of autonomous automobiles on the design of roads and highways all need to be satisfied before the dream of having driverless cars can become a reality.

Works Cited

1. "Autonomous Vehicles Could Slash Road Infrastructure Costs." Driverless Car Market Watch. N.p., 04 Nov. 2012. Web. 05 July 2014. <>.

2. Birmingham, Sacha. "A Point of View: The Ethics of the Driverless Car."BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 05 July 2014. <>.

3. "Could Driverless Cars Do Wonders for the Economy?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 05 July 2014. <>.

4. Greimel, Hans. "Safety Mandates Forecast to Drive Autonomous Car Sales."Automotive News. Hans Greimel, 9 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 July 2014. <>.

5. Hars, Alexander. "Category Archives: Impact of Driverless Cars." Driverless Car Market Watch. Driverless-Future, 28 May 2014. Web. 05 July 2014. <>.

6. Lin, Patrick. "The Ethics of Autonomous Cars." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 08 Oct. 2013. Web. 05 July 2014.

7. Marcus, Gary. "Google’s Driver-less Car and Morality." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 05 July 2014 <>.

8. "Motor Vehicle Accidents—Number and Deaths: 1990 to 2009 ." . U.S. Census Bureau, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 4 July 2014. <>.

9. NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — During tough economic times with high unemployment. "Tons of trucking jobs … that nobody wants." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 24 July 2012. Web. 2 July 2014. <>.

10. Simonite, Tom. "Google: Our Robot Cars Are Better Drivers Than Puny Humans | MIT Technology Review." MIT Technology Review. MIT Technology Review , 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 July 2014. <>.

11. Villasenor, John. "Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation." (2014): 1-25. Apr. 2014. Web. 1 July 2014

Randall Ferrance

I would like to begin by saying your article seems to be thorough and well thought out however it did present to me a few questions. Right now googles car is driving alongside human drivers, however does it drive in high population areas or just in highway settings? Also how would increasing the number of autonomous vehicles on the road effect their driving patterns? Since they were developed with human patters in mind and would this adaptation to more autonomous vehicles present any challenges? Also are there any prototype cars that use internal combustion engines instead of electric? I will say that referencing the three laws of robotics was very good because it could be integral in a no win scenario where all outcomes will likely result in a crash.

Kai Lu

I really enjoy this article. I like how your paper is structured. Overall, it did show me a picture of how human’s future will be like if autonomous vehicle become popular. But I have some questions and concerns regard to you article. First, What’s the average price of an autonomous vehicle? As you said, a number of 330,100 new trucking jobs will be added from 2010 to 2020. But does it worth to use robots instead of human? And also, is there any time limit for robots to response and press brake? As I know, autonomous vehicle needs a lot information to keep the driving path safe. So, there must be a delay for robots to respond. Yet, autonomous vehicle seems to be a trend in future, but it still has a long way to go. For me, sitting in an autonomous vehicle is like standing on the ice, and I don’t like that.

Joe Gentry

This article was a very good read, it was interesting and very smooth flowing. Y’alls article was very well written and had a lot of detail, you really gave great definitions and examples of what the article was talking about. I did not see any spelling or grammar issues which was a plus. When discussing a topic such as autonomous cars it’s very hard to answer every question that comes with the controversy. With that said I thought you all did a very good job answering the main questions people might have. In the section “safety considerations” you said Google said there cars drive safer than humans do, in my opinion technology is more dangerous than we are as its more unpredictable. Technology is always failing, just look at the thousands of vehicle recalls in the mast fifty years. What makes us think autonomous cars won’t have catastrophic malfunctions. I thought you all did great job explaining who is at fault if or when an autonomous car has an accident…very interesting. Overall, very good article, really makes people think if it’s safe to have these vehicles on the road with us.

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