Self Driving Cars: Are They Safe?


Kyle Herrera

Self-driving cars are a thing of the future, but movies such as Terminator and Robocop make us question what could go wrong. Self-driving cars are becoming a normal thing, but these cars are not fully self-driving yet. Autopilot on cars such as Tesla are not fully efficient yet as they still require a small amount of assistance. However, their efficiency is rising.

People are slowly adjusting to seeing self-driving cars. According to the Tesla website, approximately 95,200 vehicles were delivered in 2019. Teslas are already on the road here in New Mexico. These cars started out fairly expensive, but now a Model 3 can be purchased starting at $35,000 plus a $1,000 delivery charge.

These Tesla vehicles are beneficial for the environment as they do not use gas. These electric vehicles can be plugged into any 240-volt wall outlet, and there are charging stations across the country. There are charging stations in Santa Fe at a few locations, one being the outlet mall.

However, some people claim that self-driving vehicles make us vulnerable to danger. According to Carl Wellington, a senior engineer at Uber’s Autonomous Research Centre in Pittsburgh, certain types of weather such as snow are a “really interesting problem.” The self-driving cars have sensors that detect lines on the road, but when these lines are covered, or if they have faded over time, the car will fail to determine where the lane is.

Even if we could have only self-driving cars, should we? The answer is mixed. While they could possibly malfunction, that danger does not compare with the number of deaths caused by non-self-driving cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 100 people were killed in car accidents every day in 2018. The NHTSA estimates that 94 percent of those accidents were caused by driver error. (The first reported death involving a self-driving vehicle was in March 2018, and since then only four more have been reported.)

Mr. Smith, Santa Fe High’s computer science teacher, said “Self-driving cars are experimental technology because they can be tricked and make mistakes easily.”

But would we feel safe having absolutely no control over our mode of transportation?
Alex Rigales, a junior at Santa Fe High said, “I would trust a self-driving car because it’s less likely to make mistakes.”

It’s safe to say that these vehicles will continue to be on the rise and we will continue to see more of them on our roadways. Most likely we will someday find it normal to be driven somewhere without any human assistance.