The Goal of Self-Driving Cabs
When you first think of robots, what comes to mind first? Movies like The Matrix and Terminator, or advanced toys for younger ones? Japan’s view on robots are not the same as what the Western cultures perceive them to be.
Robots have been implemented in numerous areas of life to make living that much easier. Japan is advancing this further into the lives of their senior citizens, in an attempt to keep them off the road. Their answer to this problem is bringing self-driving vehicles to the streets of Japan, more specifically the driverless taxi.
Although it may not be true, elderly ones receive a bad reputation when it comes to driving. Slow reactions, poor eyesight, and loss of focus are all factors that can lead to an automobile accident. Tokyo does not want to brush this off, and they have good reason to do so. Japan currently has 60,000 citizens over 100 years old, and these senior citizens must have a form of transportation.
Although using a cab is a solution, Robot Taxi Inc. wanted to find a cheaper, and safer way of getting these elderly ones home safely. The company will start experimenting with its driverless taxis around 2016, with the support of the Japanese government. Two mile trips will be offered to 50 people in the Kanagawa prefecture. They plan to start small, and hope that their idea will be completely functional by 2020.
Vice minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, says that there are people who think it is absurd. However, Koizumi believes that the self-driving cars will “happen faster than people expect.”, as he said at an event on Thursday.
Examples of robots being used in Japan are everywhere, so this statement does have some support. Japanese companies have already implemented robots into department stores and hotels.
The Problem with Driverless Cars
The self-driving industry is advancing everyday as big companies such as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) further invest in this type of technology. They have already began experimenting their equipment in Texas.
If self-driving cars are as great as they sound, what is holding back all the support they should be receiving? The problem boils down to a matter of safety and risks. Could it be possible for a computer to decide the right thing to during a life-or-death situation?
Philosophers Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson came up with a situation that can be applied to self-driving cars. You are about to witness a runaway train collide into a car full of five people stuck on the tracks. You are able to pull a switch and change the path, causing only one death. Should you divert the trains path? Would it depend on the people inside of the car?
However, we can agree that driverless cars should aim to cause the least amount of deaths. How would a robotic car know what to do in that situation, keeping in mind the owners will to survive? Many questions arise when it comes to this on-the-rise technology, but we can only wait for them to be answered.
One benefit that we can take from this is that keeping Japan’s senior citizens off the road will result in fewer accidents.