We started this class with a lot of questions an not many answers. We end the class in much the same way. Maybe even with more questions. But thats the nature of a class like this, where we discuss topics that can only be speculated on. We all did certainly learn a lot though.
From class, the most valuable source of information we had was the first hand accounts from the people who are driving this industry and hoping to be driven by this industry. We had experts from the field come in and tell us about their companies contributions to the field. We got to view a little window into the world of people who work on these vehicles and systems every day. We also got to talk to someone who was unable to drive themselves and understand how much self driving cars would affect disabled peoples’ day to day.
We also learned from other elements of class. The discussions brought everyone’s knowledge to the table and created a collective knowledge base. The presentations allows me and my group to become experts in the algorithms driving these cars, both in terms of technical elements and social issues. Our blogs allowed us to explore topics that interested us. My blogs taught me quite a bit about a number of topics.
My first blog explored the idea of open source software and how it relates to autonomous vehicles. Most companies in the space currently use proprietary software, which is more secure and gives them competitive advantages over other companies in the space. On the other hand, open source software is a way to share information between companies to improve algorithms. It would also increase transparency and pave the way for a standard safety algorithm to drive these cars that is agreed upon in some way by the companies or government.
My second blog focused on the feasibility of using self driving technology in big rig trucks. A lot of companies are trying to tackle the challenge, including Tesla, but there are some pressing issues to take of first. Truck drivers provide maintenance and theft prevention to their trucks and cargo. There is also a huge ethical problem to self driving trucks in that trucking is one of the biggest occupations in the United States, and eliminating these jobs would have social consequences for these newly unemployed people. Some of these issues are being considered, but there may be problems if some are ignored.
My third blog talked about the basics of algorithms, which are the brains behind the self driving cars on the road today. Algorithms in self driving cars are almost always based on the concept of Machine Learning, a mathematical and statistical algorithmic method that uses massive amounts of data to recognize situations and make decisions. There are some interesting issues surrounding the use of these algorithms in the self driving space, such as the amount of trust and responsibility put on these algorithms.
My fourth post looked at the trends of journalism and press about these autonomous vehicles. There is a trend in public opinion towards being scared of new technology that is certainly present in the public’s opinion of self driving cars. The big problem with this knee-jerk reaction is that people will look for information that confirms their biases, so people voicing their worries makes more people worried, which starts a vicious cycle. Some journalists use this bias-searching to gain more views on their articles.
My fifth blog explored how green electric vehicles really are. Since most autonomous vehicles are electric and tout their green-ness, its important to examine their claims. According to most research, it is better to buy a used internal-combustion vehicle than a new electric vehicle because of the huge environmental cost of production of a vehicle and its metal-laden battery. Those huge batteries have a relatively short life compared to a normal car engine, and must be disposed of in very particular ways. There is also the issue that the electricity driving these cars is only as green as where it was generated.
We all learned a lot about something that’s coming soon but is still very much in development. We started this class by asking when we thought self-driving cars were coming. We have since talked our heads off about this question. My opinion has not changed but instead been solidified by the information we learned during this class. Level 5 autonomous vehicles will not be on our roads anytime soon, but Level 2 and 3 vehicles are already here and will become more and more common. I think that the problem of transitioning will prevent any Level 4 vehicles from becoming widely popular. My best guess is 20 to 30 years until Level 5 is commonplace.
The wonder of this subject is that there are new developments and technologies coming out ever day. There’s no way to truly predict what will happen in the space, so lets all just buckle up for the ride!
Here are some of my favorite sources I found throughout my research for this class.
And here are links to all my blogs!