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Connor Kokott
Kelly Turnbeaugh
EN 1010-038
4/12/15
IEP exploration essay
These past two years I have had a really difficult time finding a major in
college that best suits me. The thing that gets me, is these past two years I have
been in college, and I have been working towards a mechanical engineering degree.
As this time has passed, I find myself thinking more and more about my
experiences, values, and beliefs. After going through some old pictures and recalling
some memories with my close friends, I began to notice that I am the same person
today as I have always been. The jobs I have worked through are the ones that give
your mind and body all that it can handle, but are extremely rewarding. I also, enjoy
tradition and leaning about the past. I tend to keep things simple, and original. I
thoroughly enjoy the things in this world that I am living through. Just to showcase
an example of who I am today, I will tell you that I work on a historic farm where we
have preserved the lifestyle and culture of a family living on a late 1800s farm. We
teach kids how to milk a cow by hand, make tools as an old blacksmith would, spin
wool, and turn that milk into fresh butter. For me, work is a pleasure and I truly feel
rewarded when I punch that clock out. Now, as I leave work and drive on over to
school I understanding that Ill be sitting though these classes that will give me the
tools to pave the future for anyone I wish. In my case, mechanical engineering can
have a major impact on safety, environment, culture, and much more. One concept
that everyone can experience by the end of the decade, is autonomous vehicles.
Imagine that a vehicle that is completely driverless. Now this sounds a little bit
different than saddling a horse, sticking your foot in that stirrup, and preparing
yourself for a sore bottom. As you can probably imagine, I am hesitant about
reaching this day and age. However, there is still a part of me that wants to dig into
this technology a little bit more. I decided to sink into things like safety,
environmental impact, and even cultural shift, in order to truly find out where I
stand with this topic. I sure hope you are just as interested and intrigued as I am,
this could quite possibly become our world.

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So, lets find out what this autonomous car stuff really means. As you may
have already imagined, there are many different forms and functions that can take
place in autonomous vehicles. The form of automation that I am researching
involves a completely driverless car, and passengers merely become users. These
cars can also take many paths as far as how they are programmed and how they
react on the road. A few examples will be mentioned; these are case studies done
by the writers of various research I have done. These are valid solutions to how an
autonomous vehicle can react, but let it be known that there are many different
directions this technology can take. This should be clear that there is now way to
explain every single decision that a fully autonomous car could make. However,
what can be talked about is what some people say about the impact these cars can
make on safety, environment, and culture.
Safety has always been a major concern when dealing with vehicles.
As we look at this issue today, driving in a car is extremely dangerous. According to
Alexander Hars, more than one million people die on the road every year (2). Now
Mr. Hars showcases a few examples of how this technology can help reduce this
number. He says that cars never tire, are always alert, don't drink and have no
emotions which might take over at the wrong moment. Moreover, automated cars
have extremely short reaction times to external events. They are not measured in
seconds but in thousands of a second. They can process a much wider range of
information about what is happening around the car; there is no limit to the number
and type of sensors. They are also able to communicate among one another. In the
same instant that a car hits the brakes it can notify the neighboring cars of this
action which can then react almost without delay. (2). Now all these points are
nicely laid out and they tend to be very valid if the programming in the cars turns
out to be this way. There are others that would agree with Alexander Hars on the
topic of safety. For example, Forrest and Mustafa agree and say that 90 percent of
the traffic incidents are caused by human error (31). They also use data from
EUROSTAT to indicate a reduction of road fatalities in the EU by 30 percent between
the years of 1991 to 2001, as a result of improving the technology in car safety
systems (qtd. In Forrest and Mustafa 31). This statistic is a very valid way of letting
the public understand that there have been improvements in safety standards as
time goes on and there have been improvements in the number of fatalities

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technology increases. There are also many people that think that subjecting
yourself to a fully autonomous vehicle is still a huge risk and they safety concern
should still be considered. Jason Millar says there are a number of ethical problems
that need to be tackled before driverless cars go about in the world (qtd. In Andrew
Stokes 1). He explains to us a thinking exercise that will you put you standing in the
moment right before a tragedy occurs. Millar describes the situation as follows You
are driving in an autonomous car along a narrow road, headed towards a one-lane
tunnel when a child errantly runs on to the road and trips. The car cannot brake fast
enough to avoid hitting the child and so it must decide whether to swerve off the
road, effectively harming you, or remain driving straight, harming the child. (qtd. In
Andrew Stokes 1). Now this brings up the issue of who is going to be programming
these machines. These people are ultimately to blame for either human harm in
each outcome. Some people say that the passengers should be left with the
decision of what the car should do. Some say that the manufactures should have
the say, and others say that lawmakers should be the one to make this decision.
This is a major concern because it brings up all sorts of moral concerns, and these
types of things differ from person to person.
So now that we understand some positive and negative impacts that
autonomous vehicles can have on the safety of individuals, lets see what this can
bring to the future of our beloved mother earth. A lot of this determination stems
from the change in traffic flow, and that is determined by the number of
autonomous vehicles on the road compared to the number of human driven
vehicles. Forrest and Mustafa tell us that as time progresses, and automated cars
become more greatly used, traffic patterns will flow more seamlessly because of
interaction between each car. With the reduction of traffic vehicles could be
designed to optimized fuel consumption by reading the factors of the road. This
could mean increased speed limits and less stop and go traffic. Vehicles would also
be following each other consistently. (Forrest and Mustafa 37). These points
definitely make sense. We all feel our cars struggle as they accelerate. We feel the
need to put that pedal to the metal even though there is a stop sign 100 yards in
front of you. All the things that are mentioned clearly indicate a solution to save
fuel. The less fuel we use, the less energy we use when extracting the oil, and so
on. We also then cut back on the amount of harmful chemicals caused by burning

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fuel in our cars. Alexander Hars also contributes to the talk about improving the
environment when he speaks about using autonomous cars solely as public
transport. He says Automated cars are ideal for delivering passengers to or from
public transport systems. They can coordinate pickup and delivery with the actual
timetable of the public transportation system (Hars 2). Another big idea with using
this technology to improve the environment is the thought of vehicle differentiation,
and non-ownership of a car. Hars says that short distance shopping trips, taking
the whole family on vacation, long distance travel, etc. As a consequence privately
owned cars show little differentiation in such crucial attributes as number of seats,
range, weight, energy source, speed range. When cars are shared, in contrast, the
customer chooses the appropriate vehicle for each trip. (Hars 1). This concept says
that we can create electric cars for short trips where people do not need to worry
about the range of travel before running out of electricity, and since we do not own
them we do not take on the burden of keeping them charged, as this will be a part
of the scheduling for the machine, which stems from the program. Hars continues
another thought about traffic flow and the environment. He says that When waiting
at a stop light, all automated vehicles can easily synchronize their actions: As the
stop light turns to green, all waiting cars can start moving immediately; they don't
need to wait until the car in front has visibly moved out of the way. In cities, this will
make a large difference and thus increase the capacity of existing roads. The ability
to reduce congestion and increase the capacity of roads has important implications
for infrastructure planning. Many roads which are being planned today because of
an anticipated increase in traffic may turn out not to be needed any more when
automated vehicles become the main stream (Hars 2). As a result of this reduction
in infrastructure, and cars, we can say that the world will become less cluttered with
parking lots, roads, and therefore, the amount of energy and resources needed to
produce these things will fall. This will keep more of the rock, wood, water, oil,
metal, and many more resources in the ground. So the environment is obviously a
major concern these days as we think about the future, but how about the people of
this earth and their well-being?
The impact of culture is also something that needs to be accounted for when
making the deciding factor on autonomous vehicles. One of the ideas that Ive
learned about is the idea of insurance, and where the blame is pointed in the event

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of an accident. As you previously read with the tunnel issue, it all depends on who
makes the decisions with the programming in these machines. Lets just say that
manufactures are responsible for the decisions at this point. We then want to take a
look and see what happens to insurance, well, RAND says that product liability
might incorporate the concept of cost benefit analysis to mitigate the cost to
manufacturers of claims. Coverage for physical damage due to a crash and for
losses not caused by crashes but by wind, floods and other natural elements and by
theft (comprehensive coverage) is less likely to change but may become cheaper if
the potentially higher costs to repair or replace damaged vehicles is more than
offset by the lower accident frequency rate. (qtd in Self-Driving Cars and
Insurance 1). Interesting enough, manufactures could be responsible for the
incidents that occur in the vehicle, especially if there is no human override button
available. This can have a big impact on the culture between the common man and
the companies that they purchase products from. This would shift our attitude from
relying on our products to relying on the CEOs and their trust to back up the
common man. We are now buying into the companys history and future. How about
if the cars are owned by private companies that dealt with maintenance and rental
on each of their vehicles. This would force the public to rely on the smaller company
if an issue were to occur. Keep in mind that a death caused by something other than
the one deceased can carry a heavy burden of financial conflict as well as mental,
and social issues on the family and friends. The same concept should be applied
with the idea of the government having responsibility for autonomous vehicles. This
would give our culture a different view on what the government means to us. This
could potentially mean a full trust in governmental action or even a refusal to use
such a technology that is controlled by the government. Another way that our
culture could be impacted by this technology is found within the workforce. What I
mean by this is, what will people will do when there is no more need for private
mechanics or commercial drivers because of less vehicles and automated driving?
Well, Alexander Hars points out that The shift towards the rental model will greatly
shrink the overall number of vehicles in service, thus dramatically reducing demand
in the long term (Hars 3). This can mean that the demand for mechanics can fall,
therefore, creating greater unemployment. The same issue occurs when there is no
need for commercial drivers. The shipping industry will dramatically change as well
because semi drivers will no longer need to do that job. The semi-trucks that travel

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long distances often need assistance while on the road due to the high miles.
Perhaps the new job of a semi driver will be understanding how to fix bugs in the
programming. The same thing goes with mechanics; they might need to receive
new or additional training about how to fix autonomous cars. As you see the impact
of this technology on culture can have multiple different effects for the people living
through it. Lets see how my personal position on this issue has evolved after
learning a little bit out the different impacts and perspectives of autonomous cars.
When I started this paper, I can recall saying that the world as I see it today is
wonderful in my eyes. As I work on an out dated farm, I see the simple joys in doing
things the way that they were first invented. However, as a future mechanical
engineer, I also realize that the world is changing and this change is brought upon
by us, the people that that live on it. Many people are making these decisions
without me and I feel as if its time to jump on the bandwagon. One of the more
serious issues that I have come across in my life has been the idea of whether or
not to implement the use of fully autonomous vehicles in this world. Knowing that
this is a technology that we can see by the end of the decade, I knew I had to
inform others about it. The perspectives dealing with the impacts on safety, the
environment, and culture have clearly been expressed by various sources in this
paper. As I gained the knowledge of the power that safety can play in these cars, I
saw that these cars can save lives and continue killing people. However, based on
the ideas proposed by Alexander Hars and how well these cars could be
programmed I feel as if there is definitely a greater chance that these cars would
save more lives with every single one sold. I also found that the environment is
greatly impacted with this new technology. When interpreting the research done by
Forrest, Mustafa and Hars, I realized that these cars can function with much more
intensity and complexity that humans can. Based on their acceleration patterns,
traffic flow, and car sharing nature, I can say that this technology will greatly
improve the condition of our environment in the future. The cultural impact caused
by these new types of cars was one that I really struggled with and had no idea
what to think before I gathered the information about what it affects. Seeing now
that it affects the way people trust companies, businesses, and the government has
helped me find a viewpoint. Also, knowing now that there will be tons of jobs
affected, even though some of these changes are positive, I can clearly say that I do

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not think this will be a good change for the culture in our world. Overall, I have
taken the position that fights to develop these autonomous cars and put them into
our world.

Works cited

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Forrest, Alex, Mustafa Konca, and Oleg Pavlov, Prof. Autonomous Cars and
Society (n.d.): n.

pag. Www.wpi.edu. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1 May 2007.

Web. 20 Apr. 2015.


Hars, A: Autonomous cars: The next revolution looms. Inventivio Innovation
Briefs 2010-01, Nuremberg, 2010, www.inventivio.com/innovationbriefs/2010-01.
"Self-Driving Cars and Insurance." III. Insurance Information Institute, Inc, Feb.
2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Stevens, Alan, Dr., and Paul Newman, Prof. Autonomous Vehicles: A Road
Transport Perspective. England: The Institution of Engineering and Technology, n.d.
PDF.
Stokes, Andrew. "The Ethics of Driverless Cars." The Ethics of Driverless Cars.
Phys Org, 21 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Wang, Hongling, Joseph K. Kearney, James Cremer, and Peter Willemsen.
Steering Behaviors for Autonomous Vehicles in Virtual Environments. Iowa, Utah:
IEEE Virtual Reality, 2005. PDF.