Are Autonomous Cars Good or Bad?

Self-driving cars are really cool. They can drive you anywhere you need or want to be while you nap, talk on the phone, or binge watch Netflix. You have probably heard that autonomous cars will reduce car accidents by a lot. That’s true, but there might be some things you didn’t think about.

Approximately 5 Million people in America list “driver” as their occupation. This includes UPS deliverers, cab drivers, truck drivers, school bus drivers, and pizza delivery guys. “Driver” is the #1 job in 37 of the 50 states. However, according to estimates, two-thirds of driving jobs could evaporate over the next decade, thanks to self-driving cars. This is really bad for a lot of people who will lose those jobs. Self-driving cars will shake the lives of millions of workers, tens of millions of family workers, and thousands of communities. If this technology eliminates even just a fraction of the number of drivers, the economic effects will be felt nationwide.

A similar situation arose in 1967 when a London bank branch designed a machine to allow customers to access their accounts after business hours. Many bank tellers began worrying about job security. And they had reason to do so. What 21 human tellers took all day to do, could now be accomplished with only 13 humans and this new technology. Surprisingly, instead of a decreasing number of human tellers in America, that number actually grew. Tens of thousands of Americans got jobs as bank tellers within the next 30 years. This is because banks could now open and work cheaper and more efficiently than before. So they did.

However, the arrival of self-driving cars in America will be very different from how ATMs came to America. Tellers during the time of ATM arrival were simply moved around bank to bank. The jobs that autonomous cars create are technicians, mechanics, engineers, and designers. These are higher skill jobs that just “driver”. To be a truck driver today, all you need is your trucking license and be at least 21 years old, as opposed to about 4 years of college to be an engineer, 2 years to be a mechanic, or 3 years to be a designer. That’s expensive, and a lot of those 5 million people can’t afford it. This would also mean a greater divide between upper and lower class Americans, as richer people will be able to purchase cars, and lower class people won’t be able to.

Autonomous cars can have a massive impact on the economy and environment as well. In Boston, an analysis of self-driving cars showed that 100% of Massachusetts cars will be autonomous by 2050. The same estimate suggested that, if self-driving cars were privately owned and gas-powered, the state would have to face an extra:

  • $5.4 Billion on costs related to sitting in traffic,
  • $380 Million worth of greenhouse gas pollutants,
  • $300 Million in local and regional air pollution costs every year.

However, if autonomous cars are electric and publicly used, Massachusetts could save:

  • As much as $4 Billion in “incremental congestion costs”,
  • $1 Billion in reduced greenhouse emissions,
  • $845 Million on air pollution savings.

Autonomous cars could improve our future, or it could make it worse. If we can make sure these cars are electric and publicly used, we can improve our own life as well as the environment. I think that the change to self driving cars is worth it, despite the many ways we can ruin it.

Although it’s mostly unrelated, I would recommend reading THEM, by Ben Sasse, a senator from Nebraska. I would also recommend reading the Harry Potter series.

For further information, read this.

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