Debating The Future Of Autonomous Cars And Trucks

A recent debate on the topic of self-driving cars went beyond
technology issues to include societal, regulatory, economic and
ethical factors. (GETTY IMAGES)

A web-broadcasted debate recently took place that illuminated
various key issues confronting the advent of AI-based autonomous
cars and trucks.

In the debate, Princeton’s Professor Alain Kornhauser opted to
take the position that it will be the best of times ahead, and his
clashing counterpart was Dr. Sven Beiker, Founder and Managing
Director of Silicon Valley Mobility based in Palo Alto, California,
opting to take the position that it will be the roughest of times
ahead for the emergence of viable and widespread self-driving

The overarching theme was whether there is a potential of a
“new normal” that might overtake the existing autonomous car
and truck efforts in a post-pandemic era. For information about
future such debates, visit thesmartdrivingcar.comwebsite that
organized and announced the event.

The debate was joined by several panelists, consisting of
Richard Mudge as moderator (President of Compass Transportation and
Technology), Jim Scheinman (Founding Managing Partner at Maven
Ventures), Jane Lappin (Director of Government Affairs and Public
Policy at Toyota Research Institute), Brad Templeton (writer and
industry analyst at, and Michael Sena (automotive
industry expert, heralded especially for his newsletter The

I have crafted a recap of some selected points and provide those
highlights here.

Safety And Car-Related Deaths

Start with perhaps one of the most widely touted and yet
controversial topics, the safety of self-driving cars.

There are many in the media and the automotive industry that
justify the need for having self-driving cars by emphasizing that
human drivers are “unsafe†and that AI-driven vehicles
will be presumably safer. The basis for asserting that human
drivers are unsafe is typically centered on the number of annual
deaths that occur due to human-driven car crashes, amounting to
about 40,000 deaths annually in the United States alone.

Of course, any deaths due to car crashes is one too many, and we
would all undoubtedly agree that averting deaths and injuries from
car crashes is a laudable goal.

How can there be any counterargument to the notion of seeking to
avoid car-related deaths, you might be wondering?

Some say that you need to put your eye on the ball and not be
tricked into looking in the wrong places to solve the problem.

Self-driving cars, if they indeed turn out to be safer than
human drivers, which we don’t know whether that will occur,
would seem to be a pretty costly solution to the problem of
car-related deaths, some say, and there are other ways to deal with
the deaths-inducing aspects, doing so right away and at a lesser
overall cost.

For example, consider the heartbreaking and dreadful outcomes of
drunk or intoxicated driving.

Read more

Originally published by
By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider
May 14, 2020