7 Ways Autonomous Cars Are Poised to Change the World

7 Ways Autonomous Cars Are Poised to Change the World

Even though Moore’s Law seems to truly have come to an end, new technological advancements are being introduced to the world at an astounding rate. Driverless cars used to be a thing futurists dreamed of, and not long ago was something expectant bloggers and tech-junkies were drooling over as prototypes. After a long-awaited hype, however, the driverless car is here, and it is changing the world. While these autonomous vehicles are not yet available to the wider public, they are currently out on the roads, being test-driven and prepared for mass adoption.

While not many are still arguing just how the autonomous car rollout will happen, nobody is arguing whether or not it will. The consensus is in: driverless cars are on the verge of changing the world in 7 drastic ways.

1. The Transition Will Trouble Us


    The change, overall, will be and has been gradual. The most trying time for autonomous cars will be the days that the new technology shares the road with older, human-driven vehicles. One of the biggest problems with self-driving vehicles is that they are seemingly too perfect–they follow every law, all the time, without exception. If every car on the road followed this trend, there wouldn’t be any problems. However, human beings are not as disciplined as the programmed pilots of autonomous vehicles, and their erratic actions such as premature lane changes, speeding, and abrupt braking can confuse autonomous vehicles.

    You can also expect that people will be anxious to test autonomous vehicle reactions at first, perhaps by intentionally cutting them off or stepping in front of them as pedestrians, and the stringent adherence to the law may actually hurt autonomous vehicles in the short-run. Every incident between self-driven cars and human beings will fall under intense scrutiny, and anything viewed as even a slight infraction will be fuel for those resistant in the face of incredible change. Nevertheless, eventually, human beings will be phased out.

    2. As Automation Trends, Technological Unemployment Will Rise

    As automation begins to ramp up, people all over the world will raise their voices about the amount of jobs and labor lost to robots. Ridesharing businesses Lyft and Uber are just a few of the companies that plan to employ self-driving cars in the future, meaning that after decimating the taxi industry, the ridesharing workforce is going to implode itself. Other commercial drivers are going to take a hit as well, including those in the trucking and transport industry, and even city governments are going to see less revenue from parking and speeding tickets. The next 10 years might even bring the end of the conventional auto industry as we know it, replaced by a new breed of car manufacturer.


    The implications of automation run much further than just automobiles. Jobs all over the world face the threat of extinction after we create robots that are more capable than humans at… well, everything. A great mini-doc from 2014 explains the situation well:

    3. We Will Have More Time… to Create More Jobs?

    While some argue that upwards of 6 million jobs will be lost to automation, others argue that this notion is unfounded and unlikely. Manufacturing is a good example of an industry that will see radical change, albeit over a long period of time. A better way to say it is that all of the people that used to make yokes for the horse and buggy didn’t just go extinct, but instead learned to manufacture something else–the axle of the car for example. The rest of us will learn to adapt too, and maybe in ways that will actually replace the jobs the human race is outgrowing.

    If you look at the evolution of the commute from the 1800s to now, for example, you’ll realize that with roughly 150 million Americans commuting to work and the average American commuting more than 100 hours each year, there’s a lot of time we waste on a regular basis. Maybe that time could be spent reading or cultivating the arts and the mind in other ways, as civilizations have habitually done more of as they’ve gained free time. Perhaps, on the other hand, more time will be spent telecommuting, with the work day beginning as soon as you sit down in the car and ending when you step out at home.

    Whatever the case, more people are going to be needed to maintain the fleets of autonomous vehicles and other machines built to do our bidding, as well as to write the software that drives them. The good news is that coding as a career is on the rise. Perhaps all that’s needed is a push like the autonomous vehicle to necessitate and facilitate more technical and skilled learning, and eventually we’ll even overcome the STEM skills gap.


    4. More People Will Share


      One of the most optimistic predicted outcomes of the driverless-car revolution is that more people will share. Ridesharing companies that are investing in autonomous fleets might sound scary on the one hand because of technological unemployment–but on the other hand, they have proven and continue to prove that people can live and operate in a society where major commodities and big-ticket items can be shared.

      Not everybody believes that this is a good thing, pointing to the inherent flaws in Communist philosophy and practice as the extreme reason that subsidized car ownership and sharing is a bad thing. Lesser, but just as important reasons include that car culture will most likely die out, and even losing the ability to just “go on a drive to clear the mind” will make many feel like they’re losing a significant amount of privacy and autonomy.

      In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see if the “share-society” actually works. If automation truly does replace all jobs, that will mean that there should be no reason anybody doesn’t get fed, doesn’t get clothed, or has to go to work to complete a mundane task–but we’ll see if that’s actually how it plays out.

      5. Fewer People Will Die

      Every year since 1994, approximately 43,500 people have lost their lives in car accidents in the U.S. alone. About one-third of those deaths involve alcohol, and just as concerning of last has been distracted driving involving texting and cellphones. The net benefit of putting our lives in the hands of robots drivers who never sleep, never get distracted or drowsy, and never show up to work drunk means that we’ll save millions of lives every year. The effects of fewer deaths in society would have an interesting ripple effect, as The National notes via their YouTube channel: “In a driverless word, ask yourself this: would we need as many police, firefighters, ambulances–what about doctors, ambulances, and hospital beds?”


      6. Underage Drinking and Driving Will Become… Legal?


        The promise of fewer deaths is sure to spawn new and odd policies that many had probably never considered before. For one, many including Elon Musk predict that “manual” driving may become illegal in the future, determined to be too dangerous in comparison to its automated counterpart. Even more odd than that will be seeing children inhabiting a car alone, rolling along the highway to be dropped off at soccer practice or summer camp before the car returns to its port sans “driver”, where it will wait for the child to wirelessly beckon it back.

        Even more startling than seeing a thirteen-year-old sitting in the driver’s seat of a fully automated vehicle would be seeing a thirteen-year-old drinking a beer in the driver’s seat of a self-driving car. One of the major arguments for the current drinking age finds its roots in the U.S. Supreme Court Case South Dakota v. Dole, where the U.S. Government decided to refuse federal highway funding to those states that didn’t raise their legal limit to 21. While states probably wouldn’t lower their legal limit to thirteen-years-old, you might not be surprised to see 19 and 18 become the normal drinking-age from state to state.

        7. Cities Will Change and Become Internet Connected A.I. Organisms Themselves


          One of the reasons that the automated vehicles are poised to be such game-changers has to do with the Internet of Things (IoT). The best way to describe this new phenomenon would be to point out how phones, computers, cars, and even homes now all connect to the internet nowadays. These sensors will eventually evolve to interact with one another, meaning that the computer program driving your smart car will probably also be the same program driving the person’s smart car in the lane next to you. Because of these sensors, both cars would essentially be talking to each other all the time, always aware of the other’s positioning, and always able to avoid collisions.


          This type of autonomy creates a network, and almost a sort of Artificial Intelligence as well. As these beacons spread and begin to automate entire cities, one would have to wonder why types of structural changes we’d see. Commercial vehicles, designed specifically for the transport of cargo might be relegated to claustrophobic underground tunnels, while passenger cars enjoy the luxury of travel topside. Parking lots will disappear and roads would become much smaller as the most optimal and efficient configurations of mass transit would arise. Eventually the entire city itself would become an organism connected by the IoT. Who knows? The automated vehicle may just be the catalyst that transforms us and our planet into a giant, Unicron-sized A.I. robot–which is probably the dominant form of life in our galaxy anyway.

          Whatever the case, the driverless vehicle is not just poised to change the world–it already is changing the world as you read this. How you handle that change, well, that’s entirely up to you. Remember, no matter what happens, you’ll always be in the driver’s seat of your own life.

          Featured photo credit: Steve Jurvetson via

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          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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          Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

          Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

          In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

          Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

          Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

          Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.


             A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.


            The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

            “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

            In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

            The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence


              A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.


              Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

              “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

              When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

              The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

              As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]


              “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

              Silence relieves stress and tension.


                It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

                A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

                “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

                Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

                Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.


                  The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

                  Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

                  But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]



                  Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

                  Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via


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