Sample Essay on Driverless Cars and Ethical Issues


Several names, such as self-driving cars, robotic cars, or even auto-piloting cars are also known as driverless cars. A driverless car is an automated car with the abilities to perform the duties conveniently but without a driver. The idea of the driverless car can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s. However, the first driverless car came to exist during the 1980s. The Mercedes-Benz EUREKA Prometheus built the first driverless car jointly in the year 1984. After this memorable year, there have been several prototypes of the driverless car that have been manufactured by different organizations. Until the end of the year 2014, the driverless car that was available for commercial use was the open-air shuttles. These shuttles were only allowed to operate in the pedestrian zones, but within the speed limits of 20.1 kilometers per hour [5].

Even though the benefits of driverless cars are numerous, there exist a number of both legal and ethical issues that need to be addressed before its full implementation. First, it would be very difficult to establish who might be liable in case an accident occurs. Is it the software creator, the driver, or even the car company to blame for the accident? Therefore, there would be complications in the execution of the law, since the laws of the United States of America do not have provisions of a driverless car. This is because when a driver is not driving, the law pertaining to the driver’s negligence is vague and not applicable.

The major ethical issue that is linked to the driverless car is the ethical dilemmas when making decisions. For instance, the car might have a challenge when exposed to complicated situations that involve several vehicles and pedestrians. Therefore, it is an issue of concern because the ethical implications are a stake and can result in a massive loss of lives when not scrutinized properly. Therefore, there is no need to make a fuss when it involves a driverless car. In this case, these differentials on the ideas make this topic an issue of concern. It is important to note that there are various techniques together with the non-technological challenges that need to be address in order to realize the objectives of the driverless car. Among these challenges are the ethical and legal challenges [4].

Background of the driverless cars

There are numerous benefits as pertaining to the new invention of the driverless car. Such benefits include reduction of the traffic collisions that results from the increased reliability together with the enhanced reaction time as compared to the human driver. Secondly, there would be a reduction of the traffic congestion together with the increased capacity of the roadway. Thirdly, with the existence of the driverless car, there would be a reduction concerning the need for the traffic police as well as the vehicle insurance. Fourthly, there would be a reduction in car theft because driverless cars have the ability to exhibit self-awareness [3].

It is important to note that autonomy only implies the power to exercise self-governing. As a result, these cars are designed to execute high performances under adverse uncertainties in the environment. In addition, the driverless cars are also able to overcome internal failures without any interventions from the external source. The success operations of the driverless car are primarily based on the advanced communication network system that is installed in these cars. This communication system is vital for the sensitivity of the car itself for the purposes of detecting obstacles. Obstacle detection is important in avoiding of accidents from collisions, as well as management of traffic congestions [4].

Some of the communication features of the driverless cars are wider system and the range founder. The range founder usually has laser beam mounted on its top. The use of the laser is to assist the vehicle in generating the massive three-dimensional map of its immediate surroundings. The generated map is then integrated to the world map of high resolution to come up with data that can easily be interpreted by the car. The map made by the help of the lesser enables the car in navigating its surrounding automatically. In addition to this on board system, also other computations are performed on the platform of the remote computer farms [1].Before allowing the prototypes of the driverless cars from plying the roads, there have been experiments that have been conducted to determine their safety and ethical implications. The countries that are planning of passing legislations that permit the usage of the driverless cars include Belgium, France, United Kingdom, as well as Italy. On the other hand, countries such as Spain, Germany together with the Netherlands have passed legislations that permit testing of the driverless cars in the traffic. During the early months of the 2015, there was a memorable event that that took place in the Milton Keynes. At that event, the government of the United Kingdom launched the driverless car for public trials built by the reputable Lutz Pathfinder [6].

Debates concerning the driverless car

There are two groups of stakeholders having a varied opinion as far as the suitability of this car is concerned. One group is to the idea that business comes first and, therefore, all of the energies must be channeled to making a profit and expanding the business. On the other hand, the other section believes that ethics must be prioritized when undertaking the business operation. Upon scrutinizing the strength of this car, it is possible to project that when fully integrated, it can do well in the market. Therefore, some of the stakeholders view this chance as an excellent opportunity for expanding their business for maximizing the profit.

Moreover, Markoff was thrilled with the fact that they would have an opportunity of revolutionize the transport sector. As a result, they plan to be on the right side at the time where history is made. Consequently, they are doing everything within their capabilities to ensure that the project become successful [5].

Sebastian Thrun believe that with the emergence of the driverless cars, there would be a remarkable increase as far as the road safety is concerned. They have cited that the incidents of the car crashes based on the recent statistics to be a major epidemic. He was motivated by the fact that he lost his friend to accident at a tender age of 18years. Therefore, he believed that this technology would be an answer to the road accidents. Shockingly, they revealed that a massive 32,788 individuals died in the motor vehicle crashes in all of the United States of America in the year 2010. Collectively, the number of people who died in an accident that year was staggering 1.2 million. The primary cause for these high rates of the accident was blamed to be driver error that contributed to over 95% of those accidents. However, other factors such as poor weather, technical failure, as well as weak states of roads collectively contributed to just 5% of all the accident cases that year. Consequently, they assume that with the introduction of the driverless car, there would be a reduction of such high rates of accident deaths [4].

According to the Bill Gurley opinion, the emergence of driverless cars in the transportation sector would improve the efficiency regarding the service delivery. He cites various examples of taxi companies such as Uber and their influence in the transportation industry. One of the credible statistics has revealed that an average commuter always waste a staggering thirty-six hours each year. This time wastage is attributed to the traffic congestions experienced on the urban roads of the United States of America. In terms of the fuel wastage, the motorists of the America always waste over 2.8 billion gallons translating to not less than $87.2 billion. These statistics reveal that the inefficiency of the transport industry exposes the road users to the unnecessary financial burden. Apart of the financial difficulties, other stockholders believe that the inability of the transportation sector results in increased air pollution from the extra-burnt fuels [2].

These stakeholders have the opinion that driverless cars are the remedy for the inefficiency of the transport sector. This is because, with the autonomous driving technology, there is a higher degree of harmonization of the traffic flow. The technology achieves this by controlling the individual vehicles with a high degree of precision in order to realize coordination of different vehicles. The ultimate result is the reduction of the road congestions that translate into a reduction of the fuel wastage together with the reduction of the loss of finances.

Some sections of the stakeholders believe that underage driving is one of the causes of the road accidents in the United States of America. They assume that this is caused by the fact that young individuals who are approaching the legal age tend to be more mobile.

Therefore, they are always in move especially in the unholy hours of the night. Since they are highly inexperienced, they always stand at a greater risk of causing accidents as opposed to the older and more experienced counterparts. Consequently, these stakeholders believe that the best way of curbing this is through the introduction of the driverless car. With the driverless car, all the issues such as underage driving would be outdated. Therefore, they support the idea that the driverless car is the remedy for nearly all of the challenges facing the transport sector [1].

Apart from thebenefits of the driverless carssuch as efficiency, safety, andmobility that are appealing to some of the stakeholders. Somesections such as Sven Beiker believedthatthe driverless car would haveadverseeffectparticularly on the legal and ethical issues. In regards to thelegalissues, Sven Beiker is to the opinion that some legal readjustments should be made to accommodate the driverless cars. This isbecausemostcountrieshavenolegislations that cover the operations of driverless cars. Most of thecountriesonlyhavelegislativelaws that includeconventionvehiclesdriven by thehumans. Forinstance, Sven Beiker claimedthatit would be challenging to handle driverless carsaccidents under thecurrentlegislativelaws [7].

Markoff also argued that it is unethical to entrust the lives of the humans on the hand of the machines. The big question is what can happen in case there is a failure in the communication system. They assumed that there would a massive loss of lives. Moreover, one of the stakeholders also pointed out that there can be a case where humans would very dependent on these machines to a point that they became enslaved to it. In addition, some sections believed that the overall project could prove to be very costly [5]. It is of great importance to keep in mind that it would mean complete restructuring of the transport sectors in terms of infrastructures

Common Ground

Since these cars have the capabilities of operating without a driver, they have the abilities of sensing and navigating the environment automatically. Consequently, sections of some of the stakeholders are to the opinion that it is unethical to entrust the lives of humans to mere machines. On the other hands, some sections of the stakeholders are to the idea that it would make the transportation sectors to operate efficiently. Furthermore, the proponents of this idea also claim that the emergence of the driverless car would remarkably reduce the rate of accidents and the overall cost of operating transport sector globally. Moreover, the proponents also argue that just like the conventional cars, accidents always occur. Therefore, there is no need to make a fuss when it involves a driverless car. Therefore, based on the arguments of all the stakeholders, it can be argued that nearly all of them are right. This is because all of them are for the best as far as this technology is concerned.


Scrutinizing at all of the ideas of the stakeholders it can be concluded that though there are challenges especially the ethical and legal ones, the overall benefits of driverless cars are numerous. In the first place, it has the ability to improve the safety of the transport sector through reduction of the causes of traffic accidents. In addition, the idea of the driverless car is important because it has the potential of increasing the efficiency of the transportation sector. With increased efficiency, the traffic congestion would be controlled together with financial wastages that are brought about from the extra fuels. It is worth noting that with a controlled consumption of fuel, there would be a reduction of air pollution. Therefore, though the challenges of executing this project are there, it is worth undertaking.


Just like the concepts of Garrett Hardin’s lifeboat ethics, this piece of work is to assist the stakeholders to develop confidence in undertaking and proceeding with the project of autonomous vehicles. As discussed above, it is very clear that the project has a bright future despite some of the challenges facing it. Notably, the two most challenging issues that the project faces are ethical and legal issues. However, with the ideas that are proposed by Sven, Beiker, it is clear that these issues can be addressed by formulation of legal framework that is important in streamlining this new technology with the existing traffic rules. Therefore, further researching on the limitations especially the ethical ones are essential. The good news is that most of the stakeholders are optimistic of the overall success of this project [5].

Apart from transforming the transport sector, Bill Gurley has also urged us to bear in mind that the project is promising economically. Therefore, he proposed that the project is worth investing on simply because the future does largely relies on the autonomous vehicle. Bill Gurley went as far as citing examples of different taxi organizations that have succeeded and failed in the past. He took the pain of doing all these just to point out the economic potentiality of this project.

Markoff emphasized on the efficiency of this project when fully implemented. He pointed out that driverless car would contribute immensely on the improvement of road transportation mostly by reducing the number of the road accidents. In addition, he also claimed that this project would enable for the economic use of the roads as well as reducing the time wastage through traffic congestions that are characterized by most of the urban roads. However, Markoff revealed that it would be unethical to substitute a human beings with a machine and entrusting the machine more than human beings. Amidst all these, Markoff endorsed the project by citing its economic benefits and road use efficiency.

It is important to note that the success of this project requires not only the support of the stakeholders but also the public together with the government. Moreover, there is a need for initiating communication with the public with the aim of educating the masses about this new invention. However, the overall project would both benefit the public as well as the government in various spheres such as reduction of the number of accidents, improving the efficiency of the road transport together with the improving the economy in general.

[1] Beato, Greg. “Google’s Driverless Future: Will Self-Piloting Vehicles Rob Us of the Last of

Our Privacy and Autonomy?” Reason 1 June 2013: 12-14.

[2] Bill Gurley. “How to Miss by a Mile: An Alternative Look at Uber’s Potential Market Size

Above the Crowd.” Above the Crowd. 11 July 2014.

[3] Condit, Stephen Huntley. Survival or Community: A Critique of Garrett Hardin’s “Lifeboat

Ethics” Based upon Paul Tillich’s Ontological Theology. Second ed. Vol. 3. Washington, 2003. 234-254. Print.

[4] “Google’s Driverless Car.” Sebastian Thrun. 6 Mar. 2012..

[5] Markoff, John. “Google’s Next Phase in Driverless Cars: No Steering Wheel or Brake

Pedals.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 May 2014. brakes-or-steering-wheel.html?_r=0 [Accessed 9 Apr. 2015].

[6] Shinier, Harry. “Google’s Driverless Car.” The Strategic Manager. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Hoboken:     Taylor and Francis, 2014. 35-47.

[7] Sven, Beiker. “Legal Aspects of Autonomous Driving.” 12 Dec. 2012.