Is Driver-less Car System Racist?

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The future is coming with a firm step, and in a few years, maybe one or two periods, cars piloted by human drivers will be history or a rarity.

The cars without a driver will be the usual and it is convenient to know well how they work to be able to have faith in them.

The lack of confidence of the human being in the new technology is quite natural, is something that has always lived as for example in the case of the railroad, the car, the mobile phone or the Internet, so the autonomous car isn’t different.

There are thousands of trials and researches being done on these cars in different institutes to test their safety.

Particular research in Georgia Institute of Technology might spark your interest.

According to this research, most of these autonomous cars are more likely to hit dark-colored individuals then the fairer ones.

You must be wondering, how in the world can technology be racist. Well, the answer lies in the very core of these cars and to understands it we need to know what are these self-sufficient cars and in what way they work.

What are self-driving cars?

As the name suggests, self-driving or autonomous vehicles are the ones who are able to drive themselves without the need of any human help.

There are different levels at which autonomy of these cars works from level 0 with fully human dependent cars to level 6 with 100% autonomous cars who don’t need humans to drive them.

In between these extremes are a lot of other successful in use models which have some level of self-sufficiency to them without giving all the control.

The cars we are talking about in this context are fully autonomous.

A lot of laboratory trials have been successfully done on these trails but still, we won’t see any of them on the road due to several dangers associated with them, We can’t knowingly put human life jeopardy.

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Impact of Autonomous Cars:

Any new piece of technology, that is launched and used on regular basis, has a certain impact on human life. Some of it is beneficial and some aren’t.

If these cars start running on roads on a normal basis for our basic day to day activities then they are bound to interact with each other and other perambulators etc.

This interaction and their use, in general, would have a lot of influences on our daily life and the world. These impacts include:

  1. Safety:

One thing that these cars will bring is safety for passengers. How? Well, it is a famous knowing that to err is human. Humans are bound to make mistakes sometimes due to alleged carelessness and sometimes mere coincidence, anyhow these mistakes cost lives and money.

Every year thousands of road accidents occur due to drunk or careless drivers. These autonomous cars take human errors out of the equation, thus leading to fewer accidents and safe roads.

  • Economically beneficial:

This second impact is synonymous with the first one, as fewer roadside accidents will cause less damage and in return less economic loss.

If we see the bigger picture then we would notice that these cars will be economically beneficial for us in a long run (fewer hospital bills, less destruction of property like cars, fences or roads etc.)

  • Save time:

If all of the cars on the roads are autonomous then there wouldn’t be any need for traffic signals and speed bumpers etc. as these cars would communicate with each other very easily without causing any distress or traffic jam.

  • Equity:

Not only the people who can’t drive due to some medical illness or old age can benefit from these cars but the issue of drunk drivers can be resolved as well.

  • Are they dangerous?

Just like any human invention, these cars aren’t perfect, they are bound to have some uncertainty and danger associated with them.

  • Since these cars are autonomous and have software so these are prone to hack. Any hacker can easily leave bugs in the software causing malfunction and even death of the passenger.
  • No matter how perfect these cars are, they wouldn’t be able to fully cope up with unpredictable human behavior like some running pedestrian who took a wrong turn or some lost kid on the road.
  • A constant data connection is required for these cars to work smoothly. This makes us worried about their performance in an area with an unpredictable or low data connection. Are you willing to take that risk?

How do they work?

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Autonomous cars are very complex systems capable of evaluating their environment, making decisions and circulating without human guides.

They have an extremely rapid reaction capacity, as can be supposed, and the idea is that once on the roads, they have a whole network of information that makes them capable of preventing and even predicting risk situations, to avoid any kind of accident.

They use radar sensors, video cameras, LiDAR sensors, and ultrasonic sensors to help achieve this purpose.

Research by Georgia Institute:

Now that we know what are these driverless cars and how they work, let’s get back to the research I mentioned earlier.

Well according to this research the sensor in the car most probably ignore you if you have dark skin.

Why? Well, the answer is that most of these cars are tested on fair skin people only which resulted in the creation of an automatic bias.

These particular less genetically varied trials resulted in the car system that is not that much equipped to detect dark skin people.

They made two groups of individuals, one experimental and one control group. This grouping was done on the basis of color and the results for object detection was 5% more accurate for the light skin people than the dark ones.

Conclusion

Although these cars haven’t been formally introduced yet, there have been some trials for security checking purpose and all of these trials were successful.

Hopefully, this 5% bias indicated by Georgia institute will be corrected too resulting in safer auto-driving vehicles.

Victoria has issued a grant for trails of these cars on its road, as Victoria has the busiest roads of all which are prone to more mishaps than others.

If this trial turns out successfully then that day won’t be far when all of the roads will be full with these auto-driving cars.

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