What Will the Transition to Self-Driving Cars Be Like?

business_ethics_highlights_2With the deployment of self-driving cars proceeding faster that previously imagined, the days of the driving license appear to be numbered. That raises the question of how the transition – from a world in which human-piloted cars are the norm, to one in which human-piloted cars are the rare exception – will occur.

In this news commentary, author Peter Nowak analogizes this transition to the one in which horseback riding for basic transportation went from being ubiquitous to being effectively outlawed. Nowak offers a possible transitional path in which licensed driving becomes progressively more difficult to undertake. He imagines it having both technological and geographical dimensions.

One interesting line of inquiry might be the ethical considerations informing the transition: At what point do technological advances make the risks to life and health posed by error-prone human drivers too great to continue bearing? Will the economic prospects of marginal individuals or communities be considered? How compatible is statistically-based, safety-informed revocation of driving licenses with respect for human autonomy? >>>

LINK: When do we revoke humanity’s driving licence? (by PETER NOWAK for The Globe and Mail)

The transition may take decades, but like the incremental automation of the cars themselves, it’s likely to come in steps.

Self-driving vehicle experts don’t foresee a situation where humans will have their right to drive revoked outright, but further conditions could be added to the licensing process that will make it increasingly difficult to take the wheel.

“There might come a time when you need to prove why you need to drive,” says David Ticoll, a distinguished fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

Human driving may end up reserved for specific individuals, such as emergency personnel, who need to rush through traffic quickly and in unpredictable ways. (It’s worth noting that the only people who can get away with riding horses through cities nowadays are police.)

What do you think?

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