Evan Hatfield is a sophomore journalism major and writes "Never Being Boring" for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We as humans are far from perfect, or so we've been told. Everybody makes mistakes, they say. Is it reasonable to assume all the things we’ve made through thousands of years of history aren't perfect, then?
Probably. Case in point: A man was killed in 1830 as the result of an accident on the first running of a then-new steam locomotive. Did that stop people from embracing that new technology? Not necessarily. Dangerous as it may have been, nothing is going to be perfect, and it goes to show that sometimes we have to take chances to keep moving forward.
Flash forward to now. We’ve been hearing about driverless cars for a long time now — even before they were truly a thing, they were one of those things that inevitably came up when people talked about the future.
Well, here we are. Welcome to the future.
And yes, things still aren't perfect. Case in point again: For the first time, a person was hit and killed by a self-driving car. It happened in suburban Phoenix Sunday night to Elaine Herzberg. She was 49 years old.
Herzberg had family and friends, no doubt. She had a life worth living. That’s now been cut short by an event which will earn her a place in the history books. But the march of progress stops for nobody.
The car in the accident belongs to Uber, which has seen fit to halt testing of their autonomous vehicles across the country in light of it.
Frankly, it takes much more than that to stop progress from marching ahead. Uber may be doing the right thing out of respect for Herzberg, but the company’s choice will only hurt it in the long run. Let’s face it — other companies and other people will take up the cause whether or not Uber wants to continue doing so.
It was a Volvo that was involved in the accident. Even in spite of that, Volvo’s not suspending production of their driverless cars after what happened. Plenty of companies are still recognizing the benefits driverless cars bring with them.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't consider whether or not moving ahead is worth it. If there's any time to have that sort of discussion, now’s the time.
We finally know for sure what's been said for some time now: driverless cars are dangerous, at least to some extent.
But then again, so are cars with human drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40,528 people died in the United States in 2016 from accidents involving motor vehicles. So are many of the forms of transportation we used before cars. Evidently, we’ve faced this question so many times before, and we've decided to keep moving forward in spite of the danger. Given the choice, why not?
And there are plenty of upsides to moving forward. Tesla vehicles now include the capability to drive themselves at what they consider “a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.” Heck, they can even do the dreaded task of parking for you, including searching for an open spot. Uber, meanwhile, says their self-driving cars will help reduce traffic accidents, free up space and cut congestion.
So yes, change could be the direction we’re headed in this time. Just as news was breaking of the incident in Tempe, news was also breaking about the rolling out of California’s first driverless buses. That's “driverless” as in “they don't even need to have someone at the ready if the technology fails at some point.”
Does it seem absolutely insane? Possibly. Is it happening? There's no doubt about that.
I suppose the question then becomes “are we ready for this change to happen?” But that brings up yet another question: “does it even matter if we’re ready or not?”
Change is hard. Goodness knows lots of people have had a hard time adjusting to technology’s forward march through the years, and yet, on we go.
Let’s not kid ourselves — progress can't be stopped that easily. Daunting as it may seem, it's there, it's happening and it's going to keep happening.
Whether we like it or not, the future has arrived. We ought to be ready to embrace it, or risk getting left behind otherwise.