Face Off: is Hong Kong ready for self-driving cars?

Face Off: is Hong Kong ready for self-driving cars?

Each week, two of our readers will debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn't necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week's topic is ...

Rai Arlin L, 19, The University of Hong Kong

Autonomous cars are the cars of the future, but unfortunately, we’re still living in the present in Hong Kong.

Autonomous cars would have no human drivers, and therefore no human error, which is the major cause of accidents in Hong Kong, according to the Road Safety Council. Sure, computer systems can malfunction, but the possibility of it happening could be reduced by frequent and systematic checkups.

Human nature, however, is harder to control and predict. There are problems such as drinking and driving, or not paying attention to the road. The autopilot system would also be a life saver for single parents, since it would let them give their full attention to their kids while getting them safely to their destination. But unfortunately, that system is banned in Hong Kong.

But why? Computers have a faster reaction time than humans, so there is a greater chance of preventing an accident. Imagine how much safer this could make the roads.

And beyond its safety benefits, these cars could be the key to reducing traffic, a major problem in our city. By using GPS to navigate Hong Kong’s easily mapped roads, it could find the best route to get you to your destination. It would also end the problem of non-locals – and sometimes even locals – getting cheated by crooked taxi drivers.

By improving the traffic in the city, autonomous cars would be beneficial to environment, too. It would minimise carbon dioxide emissions and reduce fuel consumption.

Hong Kong, with its small geographical size, makes it an ideal spot to implement driverless cars as the new age of transport begins.


IVE students' Sophie paves new roads towards a greener future


Patricia Abundo, 19, University of Nottingham

With the rapid development of technology, autonomous – or self-driving – cars, have become a reality in several parts of the world. Is Hong Kong ready to adopt this revolutionary change? I don’t think so.

Some claim that autonomous cars mean greater safety, because there would be less human error. But what about technological error? No matter how developed or “hi-tech” something is, machines are still just machines. Problems may arise that could lead to accidents worse than those caused by human error.

When one product development company did a study on people’s attitudes towards autonomous cars, 80 per cent of the participants said that they try to make eye contact with the driver before crossing the street. That sense of human instinct and interaction is lost with the introduction of this new technology.

Another downside is the cost of autonomous cars. The technology required to assemble, establish and test a fully functioning fleet of safe cars will be extremely costly and time-consuming.

Others may view autonomous cars as a positive solution for the ageing taxi driver population. But as of August, the Hong Kong Transport Department records 18,163 registered taxis within the city. That’s 18,163 drivers whose jobs will be at risk, a majority of whom rely on driving as their main source of income to sustain their families. Lost jobs could cause great unrest amongst drivers, and also affect the economy.

There are about 577,000 private vehicles in Hong Kong today. If self-driving cars come along, placing both types of vehicles on the same roads in such a small city could cause chaos.

Comments

To post comments please
register or