There are a lot of questions surrounding autonomous vehicles (AV), and its potential impacts to society, both positive and negative. For example, it’s estimated that AV will significantly reduce the amount of lives lost on roads, simply by removing the human driver component. This technology also has the potential to automate the entire transport industry, resulting in millions of perceived job losses. There are also the moral and ethical questions with regard to the systems decision processes in the event on an accident. What course of action will the system take, will it aim to limit the overall impact to life, or prioritize the life of the occupant? More importantly, who dictates the decision processes, the programmer, the policy makers, the manufacturers or you, the vehicle owner?
For the first time, these questions, and more are being put to the Irish Public. Similar studies have been conducted in the US, UK and Australia, although previous research was primarily focused on the concerns people may have had with regard to the function and reliability of the technology, and also the perceived social impact. Similar questions are being included in this study, alongside the moral, ethical and regulatory questions that up to now, have really only been discussed by technology stakeholders, journalists, academics and policy makers. There is also the question of infrastructure. The fact that we have over 10,000 km of roads in poor condition, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that we will have the apt. technological infrastructure either.
Culture may have an influence in how well this technology is received. There has been a major shift in focus towards road safety in Irish society over the past number of years. Ireland’s road safety has improved significantly, but this has been achieved through numerous media campaigns by the RSA, and stiffer legislation, to change overall driver behavior. Since we have seen a positive trend in road accidents, will the public be that more reluctant to introduce a new unknown to Irish roads? In theory, AV sounds like the way forward, but technology is not infallible. It will take time to build the trust in AV technology, and the incremental introduction of autonomous features such as ADAS is a step in the right direction.
Early indication in this study has revealed that people will need to see this technology tested rigorously on Irish roads, before they want to open the door on autonomous vehicles. It’s also evident that the moral dilemma is real, and that there is a slight lean towards the most natural of human instincts, self-preservation. However, its early days in the data collection processes, and there are many respondents still required. So please, contribute to this survey by clicking on the link below and answering the following questions. Please feel free to share the link on your social media. Happy driving, for now!
Kind Regards, Eddie Battle, native of Mullingar, who works in the tech industry and attends NUIG part-time.