Are Robots Better Drivers than Humans? Yes.

Robots and humans approach driving somewhat differently.

The Turn Signal

This blinking indicator helps humans notify other human drivers about their intention to change lanes. Of course, its also an indicator that someone will be pulling in front which requires speeding up to prevent said passing. The obvious answer to this problem for many humans is to not use a turn signal at all.

A robot would approach this slightly differently. It knows when all the vehicles on the road work together they’ll get where they’re going more efficiently. A robot would give advanced notice to all the cars on the road when it intends to change lanes so others would give it space to make merging easy.

Rubber Necking

Everybody knows that an accident is essentially free entertainment. The worse it is, the higher the entertainment value. Naturally, humans will slow down as much as possible when approaching an accident so they can get the best view of the accident free entertainment as possible, and perhaps the best quality picture that they can immediately share with their friends on social media. #trafficaccident

A robot sees no value in slowing down for an accident unless it will prevent other accidents. Passengers in self-driving cars will have to make do with a quick glance. Then again, passengers in self-driving cars may be too immersed in something else to even notice.

Texting While Driving

Humans can’t communicate telepathically… yet. So until brain-computer interfaces are fully developed, its critical to respond immediately to any and all texts, even while operating heavy machinery. Humans are terrible at multi-tasking, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to read and type on our tiny devices while driving 75 mph.

Robots on the other hand, are excellent multi-taskers and can communicate wirelessly with other robots. They could read the news, communicate their location, and make dinner reservations all at the same time without it impacting their driving ability.

Driving Under the Influence

More than 10,000 people each year in the United States die in vehicle accidents that involved an alcohol impaired driver. Interestingly, a recent study out of Temple University suggests that a strong Uber presence in cities may cut DUI fatalities. They posit that when the price of taking an uber home is cheap enough, people are less likely to drive themselves. Humans, it seems, are willing to risk their lives and the lives of others to save a few bucks. Actually, that sounds about right.

While robots don’t drink, they could be driven under the influence of a hacker and thrown into a tailspin, wreaking havoc on a major highway, potentially killing thousands of people in a giant fiery crash. That’s actually quite scary, and the reason Mark R. Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said “We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, that their vehicle is secure, and that we are looking out for threats from hackers, thieves, and anyone else who might seek to tamper with safety-critical technology.” Hacking is probably the biggest technological impediment to self-driving cars. And until they become hack-proof, humans will continue to take the drivers seat and do all the crazy stuff humans do while driving.



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