Shall self – driving cars fully take over a human – controlled vehicle?

Group 6


Self-driving cars, also known as driverless cars, can travel to desired destinations without human input by utilising cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence. Google has started the self-driving car project secretly since 2009 [1] and a prototype was built in a few years completing 300,000 miles under computer control. Recently, the UK government started considering self-driving cars implementation and the legislation will complete in early 2021 with a speed limit of 70 mph [2]. Since self-driving cars are becoming a new trend, the legality of whether it shall completely take over a human controlled vehicle will be discussed below.

The benefits of self – driving cars

Risk reduction

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of many fatal traffic accidents. Research [3] shows that 666 people were killed, and 3,551 people were seriously injured by drunk driving each year in the UK. With self-driving technology, the number of drink driving-related accidents is likely to be drastically reduced. Self-driving cars could reduce traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers, elderly drivers or people with low vision. Regarding duty ethics, where the action is correct when it agrees with the moral principle, self-driving is correct as it reduces the number of casualties. 

Long-term economic benefit

The long – term transportation expenses are predicted to save up to 7 trillion USD by 2050 [4] from reducing medical expenses caused by traffic accidents and the cost of hiring drivers. New car designs will also carry more passengers with additional space from the driver seat. While full automation does the job as a driver, all passengers can do other tasks and increase productivity. Utilitarianism ethics is achieved as most people are happy with the increase in productivity and the reduced money spent. Besides, 2 million individuals with disabilities [5] will also get employed and be self – sufficient to promote self-driving technology. This aligns with duty ethics as everyone can then share equal rights to work or do what they want.

Traffic conjunction and environmental aspect

London is the most congested city in the UK. According to research carried out by INTRIX [6] in 2019, an average time of 149 hours wasted on traffic per driver annually in London. The researchers from the University of Cambridge designed an experiment to show the difference of a stopping car between a self-driving vehicle and a human-controlled vehicle (egocentric). It shows that self-driving vehicles effectively improved the overall vehicle flow by 35% [7]. With the support of virtue ethics, self – driving cars not only maintain common virtue ethics of human activities such as reliability but also reduce the egocentric action in driving. Furthermore, self-driving cars can save fuel by 4% to 10% from an experiment by Ohio University [8]. Cars are programmed to travel simultaneously, eliminating unnecessary acceleration or braking due to unknown situations [9], which aligns with care ethics as driver – to – driver relationships are introduced. This can also achieve minimum fuel wastage. Besides, self – driving cars would be suggested to follow routes with minimum fuel consumption. Greenhouse gases emission is reduced from unnecessary idling in traffic jams. The promotion of self-driving cars agrees with duty ethics as it protects the environment.

Drawbacks and potential risks associated

Moral problem 

Considering deontological theory, it is morally wrong for AI to control human behaviour. From time to time, humans control cars and decide where to go. Habits and perception of people would be changed on what is right. Self-driving cars also offend car enthusiasts as they can no longer have fun with cars. According to a survey [10] conducted by the advocacy group Partners for Automated Vehicle Education in 2020, of 1200 adults surveyed, 48% of respondents said they would never try a driverless car, 20% think it is unsafe, 21% are unsure about it, only 20% are willing to try a completely driverless car.


Technical issues are possible to appear in extreme weather (snow or rain) where the sensors fail to detect all possible hazards. Although human errors are eliminated, errors caused by the AI are unpredictable which could cause accidents on a much larger scale that can be easily avoided by humans. In addition, paths are likely to be standardised to optimise time and fuel consumption. Privacy concerns would rise since communication between vehicles and a third – party server exist. Although information such as location is kept confidential, the risk of being hacked externally is still present. Consequences could be tragic if terrorists use this to their advantage. It is necessary to have a driver who is capable of manual driving in case of any emergency. 

Less job opportunities

According to a report of May 2017 from Goldman Sachs, autonomous driving technology would cut 300,000 driving jobs each year [11] including co – pilot, taxi, freight and private driver. Apart from actual drivers, autonomous cars also have a great impact on the market. The report [11] also estimated that autonomous cars would account for 20% of total car sales. It will be a big shock to the market and the corresponding jobs (e.g. product designers). Opposition from the society would rise along with the implementation of autonomous technology due to the variety of driving jobs being replaced, which is against the care ethics.

Health issue 

A large variety of advanced technologies are used in self – driving cars including remote controls, sensors, Bluetooth, Wi – Fi, GPS guidance, GPS tracking tools, powered accessories, radio and entertainment systems, etc. This increases the exposure to electromagnetic field radiation which could lead to illness such as insomnia, headaches, inner agitation, migraines, chronic exhaustion, and susceptibility to infection. [12] This violates the virtue ethics as it is harmful and irresponsible for the public health.

Initial Decision:

We agree that the benefits of self – driving cars fully take over human controlled vehicles outweigh the drawbacks of it.


[1]Glon, Ronan. “History of Self-Driving Cars Milestones.” Digital Trends. Digital Trends, July 31, 2020.

[2] Kilpatrick, Richard. “Autonomous Driving Set to Become Legal in the UK.” CAR Magazine. Bauer Media, August 20, 2020.

[3] “Drink Driving Statistics UK.” UK – Accessed March 23, 2021.

[4] Lanctot, Roger. “Accelerating the Future: The Economic Impact of the Emerging Passenger Economy.” Strategy Analytics, June 2017.

[5] Claypool, Bin-Nun, and Gerlach. “Self-Driving Cars: The Impact on People with Disabilities.” Ruderman Family Foundation, October 3, 2017.

[6] Reed, Trevor. “INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard: Congestion Cost UK Economy £6.9 Billion in 2019.” Inrix, February 2019.

[7] ITV News. “Driverless Cars Could Help Reduce Traffic Problems, Study Finds.” ITV News. ITV News, May 20, 2019.

[8] Thales, 7 benefits of autonomous cars. Thales, July 21, 2017.

[9] Bell, Lyndon. “10 Benefits of Self-Driving Cars.” Accessed March 23, 2021.

[10] Ira, Boudway. Bloomberg, May 19, 2020.

[11] Balakrishnan, Anita. “Self-Driving Cars Could Cost America’s Professional Drivers up to 25,000 Jobs a Month, Goldman Sachs Says.” CNBC. CNBC, May 22, 2017. [12] “Top 3 Possible Dangers Of Self-Driving Cars”. 2021. VEST | Radiation Blocking Products For Everyday Use.

16 thoughts on “Shall self – driving cars fully take over a human – controlled vehicle?

  1. The topic of ‘Driverless cars’ has been covered a number of times over the years. One reason being that it’s clear engineering problem and there is a clear dilemma too. You’ve added a fresh perspective – thanks.

    Opening statement. The problem is clearly stated. There is a clear dilemma.

    In the arguments for, there is an excellent use of ethical theories. Well done!

    In the arguments against, there is an acceptable use of ethical theories. Focus on improving this for Assignment Two. In some cases, the theory just needs to be stated. For example, you say: “Self-driving cars also offend car enthusiasts as they can no longer have fun with cars.” – this could be supported by deontology and, perhaps, utilitarianism.
    As an aside, you note that “the risk of being hacked externally is still present. Consequences could be tragic if terrorists use this to their advantage.” Terrorists have used vehicles to perform attacks too.

    Advice for Assignment Two: With the argument against, state the ethical support more.
    It should be straight-forward to identify the stakeholders.
    In terms of Options for Action, all options are worth considering, although I think a case could be made for a win-win.

    Please try and get more comments. This particular topic should resonate with the ‘typical’ mechanical engineer. (For ‘typical’ let’s use the word ‘exceptional’ instead. 😊 )
    I’m perfectly OK with you striking deals – whereby you comment on other articles and they comment on yours.

  2. Self-driving car is a topic that discussed a lot recently with the emerging AI technology. Like you said in the article, there’s a risk of hacker or terrorists’ attack which worried me but I feel like self-driving car is a going to be fully implemented sooner or later due to its economic benefits and current social trend. I don’t think job displace will be a major problem because self-driving car also create new job as well. In the future, drivers can let their self-driving car out on the road and earn money for them.
    Personally, I hate long distance drive and reckless driver. Therefore, I am fully support for self – driving cars fully take over human controlled vehicles ! Also, Elon Musk is confident about level 5 vehicle autonomy(fully automation) complete this year.

  3. There exists the possibility that a regional 6G network could be used to orientate cars and enable them to communicate with each other to avoid accidents and congestion. Do you see this as an issue in about 20 years time when everyone is accustomed to the automation mode and the network goes down? Also if the network does not efficiently update a roadblock will that not pose a major threat to the drivers?

  4. As someone who’s only learned about AI technology and self-driving cars vaguely, this article has really brought up some interesting perspectives — especially the points on moral and ethics. Although I do see the problem of less job opportunities is susceptible of solution, since every industry is evolving in their own way. Just like many other trends and innovation, the major drawback of completely replacing human-controlled vehicles hinges on human’s willingness to change and adapt. This would perhaps take up decades to succeed, but I do agree with you that with technological advancements under way, self-driving cars’ benefits do outweighs its risks.

  5. The concept of Driverless cars is indeed a breakthrough in technology. Accidents on traffic is always a concern to everyone who is using the road, no matter driving or walking pass. AI control can minimise the mistakes made my human and can guarantee a safe environment. Auto-pilot is not a new technology since it’s applied to aeroplanes already, so transport on road can also adopt this technology. By sensing external traffic situation and communicating with nearby vehicles, automatic judgement can make the journey smoother, easier and safer. Yet, a licensed driver should also to stay in the car, since there may be technical problems and human judgement is required to response to emergencies. But as technological advancing, I believe that driverless cars will be a trend to the world and it will bring us into a brighter future.

  6. The AI technology that we have now has brought much convenience to us. In this situation, I think although a huge amount of data is gathered, AI won’t be manipulating human behaviours. AI works as an assistant to humans instead of running on its own.

  7. Driverless driving is definitely the trend in the future. It can liberate people’s hands to the greatest extent, protect safety and arrive at the destination on time. However, this has always been the direction that big manufacturers want to work hard. However, there are still many technical problems that can not be solved at present, As the article said, driverless driving will be affected by the weather to a certain extent, and on this basis, there is another problem, that is, the problem of information transmission. As 5g has just started, there are doubts in both the communication industry and the technical implementation of driverless driving. At present, the data given by many manufacturers can not prove whether 5g can be used in driverless driving.

  8. Self-driving technology can improve travel efficiency and make travel a lot easier. However, I personally worry about the safety problem.

  9. The Al technology is not limited to self-driving car today. Same technology including the camera system have been applied on various of new robotics as well. We’re likely to adapt to the trend of AI cars and this will be the future. The price of a Tesla X in the UK has dropped by more than 25% over the past 3 years and the fact that it provides and extends the mobility for disabled and elderly makes self-driving cars superior than their traditional counterparts.

    The article has provided some valid arguements. However their social impact is often under-discussed at this point. The shift into predominantly self-driving car use may might reshape our travel pattern and the impact is still unknown. Personally I’d support the use of self-driving cars to take over lorries and trucks for cargo transportation as a experiment phrase first.

  10. The AI technology has proved that it is a main character in many technique such as driving car and automated tool control system. Although the purpose of their use are totally different, the main achievements of those AI technologies are to cause people more safety and confident about what they are doing. It’s a detailed report for me to understand how Driving car are pros and cons to us.

  11. With fully autonomous driving, there is still a lot of ethical concern brought up. Although Tesla is proposing level 5 autonomy in 2021, the requirement of a licensed driver operating a car will still be valid. This means that a new business model will be developed while drivers might actually keep their job.

  12. I think self-driving cars can be regarded as a technology that still requires plenty of research and experiment so that it could be popularised, and surely it would become advantageous to everyone in the future as long as thorough precautionary considerations are taken. You have clearly outlined and discussed well the benefits and potential risks that would be brought by self-driving cars and I also agree with your points. Your report really delivers some useful content that helps me to understand more about this interesting topic.

  13. Apart from the economic benefits or potential safety issues associated, the priority of minimising harm is an ethical dilemma that is worth considering. For instance, a self-driving car is involved in a situation where a collision is unavoidable. Would you choose to sacrifice the passenger inside to save other road users or the other way around? In this case, it is not a reaction made by humans in an unprepared situation, it is a decision made by the programmer or policy maker.

  14. Self-driving car is the new trend and many companies are inventing new technology about it. There is a new drive-less car invented by baidu testing in China. It will be the new way of living in the future. However, the safety issue has to be considered.

  15. Self-driving car can promote economic growth due to the higher transport efficiency. Goods or people can be transported in a shorter period of time and can be more punctual. This can improve the living standards.

  16. the ethical concern of self-driving car take over human action of driving is a different perceptive of thinking about the ethical problems of self-driving cars.

    apart from that, I think it would still have some other ethical concerns on how the car makes its decision when in an ethical dilemma.

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