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Oct 15 2016
by Daphine Henderson

College Students Have Mixed Feelings About the Arrival of Self-Driving Cars

By Daphine Henderson - Oct 15 2016

Self-driving cars (also known as autonomous vehicles) are set to be arriving soon in the Boston area. These cars will replace a human driver with computer technology.

Emma Seslowsky, an avid bicyclist attending Boston University, tells Fresh U that she can’t see the aspect of these autonomous vehicles around her campus.

“There’s a certain safety when biking, knowing that the person in the car is an actual human that can see you,” she says.

Following the plans of universities like Sacramento State and Carnegie Mellon, the city of Boston plans to test the vehicle on the road.

Tech analysts predict that these self-driving cars will bring more advantages than disadvantages. The following graphic shows some of the possible advantages and disadvantages:

infographic by Brianne Garrett on USA Today

Sophomore at Northeastern University Mack Hogan believes the idea of self-driving cars is an “uncomfortable truth” for those who love to drive. He adds that the computer will always be better, no matter how good a driver someone is.

“It’s an irrefutable fact that [computers] can and will be safer, as much as I hate to admit it,” Hogan said. “Even in the watered-down infant stage we’re seeing right now, a human driver can’t hold a candle to a digital wheelman.”

Hogan also believes the relationship between self-driving cars and ride-sharing services can greatly benefit those college students unable to afford to bring their own cars to campus.

“With the demise of the personal vehicle and the advent of infinite ride-sharing, you take a flight from Boston to Los Angeles and your car comes with you,” he said. “Sure, it isn’t your car, but it goes exactly where you want it to and is there whenever you need it, so do you really need to own it? For people like college students, this will completely unlock mobility.”

Some people aren't sure what to think about the introduction of this new method of driving:

BU senior Jake Brewer believes the new technology could relieve some stress of those students who commute or intern far off campus.

“Self-driving cars, especially electric ones, could revolutionize urban public transit,” Brewer said. “They can interact with one another to mitigate urban traffic congestion and automatically plan out the fastest carpool routes.”

With the rate of traffic accidents reaching an all-time high, Scott Pare, BU’s executive director of public safety, is hopefully the change to autonomous vehicles might ease some of those numbers by eliminating driver error. As speed is a factor in many accidents alongside distracted driving, he would be all for the idea if the self-driving cars provide a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, he tells USA Today.

Many show their anticipation for the autonomous vehicles:

While the idea is exciting, the transition into self-driving vehicles will be challenging for a major city such as Boston, and should be gradual, according to Luis Quintanilla, president of BU’s Urban Planning Association.

“I think that it is going to be very important that all people interacting in the BU campus, including students, get to know the roles and responsibilities as public space users that the potential incorporation of autonomous vehicles may entail,” said Quintanilla. “We all will need to be more careful and more disciplined.”

Schools outside of Boston have already taken a step forward into introducing self-driving vehicles in the area. Schools like Santa Clara University and California State University Sacramento have replaced buses with self-driving golf carts for students.

Savanna Riley, a student at Sacramento State, tells USA Today that there are shuttles at night that takes students to their car when they are studying late.

Penn State is also working to make the cars less vulnerable to hackers while work along with Elon Musk’s OpenAl research company. A new tool named “cleverhans” is designed to help researchers determine how prone the self-driving vehicles are to malicious and dangerous data.

Uber and self-driving cars have formed their first business relationship in Pittsburgh — where Carnegie Melon University began the milestone for research on autonomous vehicles.

It’s guaranteed that computers will be taking the wheel on campuses and these driverless vehicles may prove extremely beneficial for many college students. 

Lead Image Credit: Twitter

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Daphine Henderson - University of Maryland, College Park

Daphine Henderson is a sophomore at the University of Maryland College Park majoring in Music Performance on Bass. She enjoys reading, writing, and anything involved with music and art. Follow her on Twitter @Guinea231 !

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