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Are We Ready for Autonomous Cars?

 

Both my parents work for automotive companies, with my dad at GM, and my mom at Fiat Chrysler. As a result, I’ve been a car guy most of my life, and I’m absolutely fascinated with the technical wonder known as the automobile. Lately, there has been a major debate regarding autonomous vehicles, and whether or not they are good for the car industry and good for people. Personally, I am an automotive purist, so I believe that autonomous driving is not good for the industry, since it takes the enjoyment and connectivity out of driving. In my opinion, people will lose their connection and love for their vehicles, and will cause the decline and eventual death of the sports car. This being said, however, I do want cars and driving to be safer for everyone, which will in turn reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by reckless, impaired, and distracted driving, which are the main causes in roadway accidents.

 

This work is not meant to be an advice column or scientific report on the current state of the safety and regulations of autonomous vehicles, but is instead an informative piece on how people may choose to buy or not buy an autonomous vehicle. I have used both my own personal knowledge of the subject to create this piece.

 

The problem with autonomous vehicles, is that oftentimes, drivers can fall asleep, or become distracted, because they no longer need to focus on the road. While this is often not a problem, there have been recorded accidents with autonomous vehicles colliding with non autonomous vehicles, and these crashes are often deadly. I would like to examine if autonomous cars will actually pose a threat on the roads, or will be a benefit to road safety. There are many current technologies that allow for autonomous or semi autonomous driving capabilities, such as Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Supercruise driving programs, which work with varying degrees of success.

 

The players of my game are Consumer 1 and Consumer 2. Consumer 1 is a safety minded individual who is willing to spend extra for safety features in a vehicle and is very open to the idea of autonomous vehicles. Consumer 2 is less likely to pay extra for safety features and is less willing to buy an autonomous vehicle, because they enjoy the experience of driving. Consumer 1 and 2 represent the two main parties involved in the autonomous vs. non autonomous vehicles debate. Granted, there are not only 2 drivers on the road at a time and this is not a competitive game, but game theory can be used to discern the potential outcomes and payoffs for each party.

 

The matrix is 2 by 2, where Consumer 1 occupies the columns, while Consumer 2 occupies the rows. Strategy A is to buy an autonomous car, while strategy B is to not buy an autonomous car. Both consumers want their way in regard to the cars that are on the road. Consumer 1 wants there to only be autonomous cars, while Consumer 2 wants there only to be non-autonomous cars.

 

All values in this scenario are correlated to the safety of the outcome. The values are on a scale from 1 to 100. Before assigning payoff values, I took into account two factors. One was the consumer’s safety, and the other is the consumer’s content and happiness given their particular situation.

Outcome W: (A,A) – the value here is 100 for Consumer 1 and 50 for Consumer 2.

Consumer 1 is happy with this outcome, because they know that the cars that are on the roads being “driven” are safer and will be able to communicate and avoid a crash. Consumer 2 is safer than they would be in a car that they are operating, but they are not pleased by the fact that they no longer can enjoy the freedom and thrill of driving on their own.

 

Outcome X and Y: (A,B) and (B,A) – the value here is 75 for both Consumer 1 and Consumer 2.

Consumer 1 is okay with this outcome, and is happy that they get to have an autonomous car, but at the same time, they know that there are other drivers on the road without autonomous cars, and is increasing the potential for an accident. Consumer 2 is happy as well, since they get to enjoy their driving experience, but are less safe on the roads as a result. This outcome is like a compromise for Consumer 1 and Consumer 2.

 

Outcome Z: (B,B) – the value here is 25 for Consumer 1 and 75 for Consumer 2.

Consumer 1 is unhappy with the outcome, but still has a viable form of transportation, even if it is less safe than a fully autonomous vehicle. Consumer 1 has the option of getting a safe car, with many available safety features and a high crash test rating. Consumer 2 is very happy that they can drive a car without computer assistance, and no autonomous cars is like a perfect world for them. They do not have the greatest possible value however, because they are not as safe as they could possibly be.

According to the Pareto optimality, the solution to the game is either solution X or solution Y, since it is the outcome with the greatest values on the x axis and y axis. Nash equilibrium agrees with the solution presented by the Pareto optimality, with the solution as either X or Y.

 

Based on the solutions, outcomes X and Y are the most favorable to both players, which seems very logical, given that it is a compromise of sorts. Both get what they want, and give up very little in return. Consumer 1 can have their autonomous vehicle, which is supposedly safer, while Consumer 2 can have their non autonomous vehicle, which is supposedly more enjoyable to drive. While neither of them get a perfect 100, 75 is a pretty good value to walk away with in the grand scheme of things.

 

Autonomous vehicles will undoubtedly change the face of transportation in the years to come. Many automakers, including Tesla, Cadillac, and Nissan are dabbling or have released semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles in the United States. Many companies are testing these technologies as well, such as Lyft, Chevrolet, Waymo, Mercedes-Benz, Uber, Volvo, and Volkswagen. These automakers have realized that autonomous vehicles are the next big thing in the automotive industry along with electric cars. Consumer 1 and 2 aren’t just people, but the 2 main groups of consumers involved in the decision of which vehicle they want to buy. Ultimately, I believe that semi autonomy is the best path at the moment, which allows for a balance in both driver enjoyment, as well as driver confidence in collision avoidance.

Let me know what your opinion of autonomous cars is in this poll:

http://pollmaker.vote/p/8TWCHR11

Look at how your answers compare to everyone else:

http://pollmaker.vote/r/8TWCHR11

If you enjoyed the topic, here are some new interesting articles about the current state of autonomous driving.

https://electrek.co/2018/04/25/tesla-autopilot-saved-owner-crash-semi-truck-video/

http://www.motortrend.com/cars/cadillac/ct6/2018/2018-cadillac-ct6-super-cruise-review/

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