Driverless vehicles are no longer science fiction. They’re a reality that could hit the road in the next few years and become a standard feature in all vehicles by the middle of the century.
The appeal of self-driving cars is evident. They will improve the mobility of those who don’t (or can’t) currently drive, and they could minimize emissions thanks to reduced congestion. But there are also some unexpected dangers that could arise.
Here are four dangers of self-driving vehicles that you may not have thought of:
Motion sickness will be more severe for some people.
As much as 37 percent of adult passengers in SDVs will experience an increase in the frequency and severity of motion sickness. Why? They would be reading, texting, watching movies, working or playing video games in the vehicle instead of driving, according to a recent study published by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.
Road safety will worsen before getting better.
When both conventional vehicles and SDVs share the road during the transitional period to SDVs only, the risk of accidents for conventional vehicles could be elevated, according to an earlier study conducted by Sivak and Schoettle. They found that SDVs may not be able to avoid crashes that aren’t caused by drivers. It’s still hard to know exactly how long self-driving vehicles and conventional vehicles will share the road during the technological transition.
Hackers could highjack self-driving vehicles and control them remotely.
As cars become more connected, hackers could access personal data including typical journeys or the location of a person, potentially indicating to a burglar that someone isn’t home, according to a report published by British bank Lloyds a year ago. There is also potential for cyber terrorism. For example, a large-scale immobilization of cars on public roads could throw a country into chaos, added Lloyds.
Driverless cars could be used as lethal weapons.
Hackers could also take over self-driving vehicles and use them as lethal weapons, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned last summer in a report obtained by the Guardian. In a nightmare scenario, the car could be programmed to navigate safely and avoid obstacles while criminals in the car could use their free hands to shoot at pursuers. Terrorists could also program explosive-packed cars to become self-driving bombs.
“It directly contradicts the message that many developers of self-driving vehicles are trying to communicate that these cars, immune from road rage, tiredness and carelessness, can be even safer than human operators,” the Guardian noted.
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