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  • Writer's pictureMaram T

Agree to Disagree: Automated Vehicles Vs. Manual Driving

This insights report is a recap of the TED Circles: Automated Vehicles vs. Manual Driving workshop held on Sat July 17, 2021, 10–11:30 am ET. transform this hosted TED Circles are a free, online, safe, and inclusive place to connect with innovators from all over the globe. This workshop included representation from at least 4 countries including Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, and India.

Workshop Goals

Automated Vehicles have been around for a while now, yet the adoption remains relatively low compared to traditional vehicles with human drivers. We met to discuss:

  1. How will automated vehicles impact our lives?

  2. What transformations may be required to ensure the safe and equitable adoption of AVs?

  3. What perspectives are needed to transform?


For additional inspiration, here are an HBR podcast and a TED Talk that represent the topic:

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Workshop Insights

We began the discussion by considering the TED Talk by Nico Larco related to the impact of autonomous vehicles on our society. This opened up a conversation in concerns regarding human-machine segregation and the safety of implementation. As the automation level increases, we realize that these levels may not be suitable for all roads and terminals, and additional infrastructures will be required for each level. All elements need to be in place to be able to enable each level, but the mixed traffic causes complexity in such implementation.

Andrea then raised an additional issue regarding employment within the automation industry, and the importance of employment in developing countries. There could be a hard balance between the need for technology advancement and increased employment compared to the safety of such technology implementation. The issue can be even more complicated with factors also considering infrastructure development and policy establishments.

Chris: "There should be governance in place to teach all the elements needed to the companies."

But it is not just the companies that are involved in the process. There is also dependence on the physical region and the national legislation in place regarding the automation process.

The discussion then expands into the future, Arun brought up the concept of “transportation as a service.” Companies like Tesla and Waymo are planning to set up a facility where people can use a center application to book particular time slots of a car, where transportation is used as a service. With this concept and automation, there are also mental and physical considerations regarding whether we as humans are prepared for the new normality of self-driving cars, and whether we can equip ourselves to transition. This is when technology integrity becomes relevant.

Arun: "We should proceed and move forward in developing a better technology with integrity, and trust factor in it."

The conversation then connects to a poll posted by Gunjan regarding reasons why people choose not to own an autonomous vehicle. Interestingly 36% of the people responded that they would like to drive themselves, this was able to show that humans tend to hate changes, and it relates to the mental aspects that Arun mentioned before regarding how human needs to be mentally and physically ready to accept and digest certain new transformations. The group also pointed out that the poll might be biased due to regionality, where certain cities in North America may have less traffic than some cities in Asia or Europe.

Andrea shared her personal experience in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most crowded cities around the world, where she decided to take the bus to get to her job instead of driving. Andrea points out that taking the bus is similar to having an autonomous vehicle, even taking a plane, where they all don’t require time for ourselves to drive. As Andrea put it, “it’s a matter of perspective.” Having an autonomous vehicle could save people a lot of time to do other things while in transportation, despite all the raised concerns.

Andrea: "if public policy have the correct incentives for the people, automatic vehicles will be the preferable option."

Then the group starts to discuss the cost of ownership for autonomous vehicles. As Chris first mentions, autonomous vehicles will not solve all the transportation issues by themselves, there are still issues such as policy, safety, logistics, and even parking as part of the traffic congestion. From the stakeholders’ perspective, from Uber or taxis to the government owning autonomous vehicles, we will first need to make this affordable to the general population. As Rohit mentioned, the major option for having an automatic vehicle would be owning a Tesla, though Tesla is a premium brand that is rather expensive, therefore the concept of “transportation as a service” may be leveraged where Uber or Lyft might because our leading transportation method in the future.

Though in order to fully understand this topic, the group discussed the essential motives for the development of autonomous vehicles. The group pointed out that as part of the total cost of ownership, the cost to the environment should also be considered. Human tends to resist change, but one of the main reasons leading us to transition is pollution, where we need to conserve energy and save fuels for the future. In addition, the cost and efficiency of autonomous vehicles are also part of the driving factors for the transition.

Reading from some of the comments made underneath the poll, the group expanded on the discussion of accountability from the safety perspective. The usage of autonomous vehicles could cause complications in locating the party accountable for certain actions if an accident does happen due to technological errors, or from malicious acts like hacking. In addition, the infrastructures also take part in the difficulties in identifying accountability. There can be roads in smaller cities or suburban areas that do not consist of the same type of quality roads that the bigger cities have, It can also be hard to ensure the safety and accountabilities of autonomous vehicles on these roads if they have been designed for use there. To make even further complications, considerations of extreme weather and uncontrollable situations also act as barriers to the establishment of a completely safe autonomous vehicle.

Andrea: "there will always be the question of accountability. Just because you have the technology doesn't mean you're 100% safe."

On the other hand, Rohit raised an interesting point on how autonomous vehicles might be more efficient and more capable of things that probably a human driver cannot do. Control systems cars are much more capable, and can automatically adjust to various situations better than humans, considering our physical and psychological limitations.

To close the session, the group concludes that the prime factor in the transition of an autonomous vehicle future is going to be raising awareness holistically.

Arun: "We should standardize a process so that it can set the tone for the entire universe, where everyone can adapt and learn."

We realized that other than the technology side, there should also be consideration of the public reaction. The group concluded that we will need to find a balance where autonomous vehicles can be adopted by the majoring of the population.

Chris: "Autonomous vehicles need to be financially and efficiently feasible, not only for the countries, but also for the users."

Lastly, as Andrea pointed out, the standard of consumption is almost the same around the world, but the production and the financial conditions are different. The same goes with the development of autonomous vehicles, it is not only dependent on the region, but also its policy, infrastructure, resources, and much more.

Once again, our gratitude to the global transform this community for returning week after week and bringing their diverse perspectives.

If you enjoyed this conversation, join the global transform this community for future editions.


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