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Sarah Chock is a high school senior who’s personal experience with unsafe driving conditions on the road offers her unique perspective on driver safety. Her essay demonstrates the potential utility of self-driving vehicles while lamenting the fact that man’s ability perfect this technology and make it widely available could be farther off than we think.

Q: The car industry has experienced a lot of changes in the last decade. Between ride-sharing apps like Uber and the rise of semi-autonomous vehicles, the world of cars is changing. Write an essay about the future of the auto industry. How will the way we drive cars change in the next 10-20 years?

Driving to the Future

Three thousand two hundred and eighty-seven. That is the number of deaths that occur around the globe from car accidents. Each. Day. Among young adults aged 16 to 25, motor accidents are the leading cause of death. Being aged 18, smack dab in the center of that dynamic, is frightening. I’ve faced multiple instances of being rear-ended and riding with a too-careless friend who almost made a potentially fatal mistake. When it comes to the development and future of vehicles, something needs to change. In the next 10 to 20 years, the way we drive cars will change by removing the most dangerous part of driving: drivers.

You’ve seen it in the movies: cars that can fly, talk to you, and drive themselves. Although flying cars might sound kind of interesting, and talking cars would certainly hold up an interesting conversation, those upgrades might be a bit farther into the future. But self-driving cars might be closer than they seem. With several semi-autonomous cars hitting the market, such as Tesla’s Model S, driving keeps getting improved. Right now, many semi-autonomous vehicles being released are classified as a “level 3” autonomous vehicle. This means that the car can control many different functions, such as changing lanes, but the driver still has to stay alert. Many of these vehicles have implemented contingencies that the driver has to keep at least one had on the wheel most of the time. Cars as we know them today, level 0 and 1 classified vehicles, are changing. And although many more traditional people may be resistant to this change, these features of the not-so-distant future are making driving, or lack thereof, safer.

Recently I had a brush with death that got me thinking about how self-driving cars would make the world a safer place. A friend of mine was driving a group of friends and me to Chipotle, a staple of the teenager diet. As we approached a four-way intersection with a green light to turn left, something was wrong. My friend, taking the role of the stereotypical teenager, was not paying attention, and although he had to yield, he kept driving. This would have been fine, except that there was another car barreling straight towards us. As I and my other friends screamed as our lives flashed before our eyes, I noticed something weird. Neither my friend nor the driver two inches away from hitting us even flinched. They didn’t slow down or speed up, just kept continuing along their own individual paths. After miraculously completing the turn without any loss of limbs, I was in awe. This is what I imagine a life with self-driving cars would be like. There would be no slowing down or avoiding other traffic, all paths would be meticulously mapped out down to the inch. Cars would always be close to brushing bumpers, but they would never hit. There would be no need for stop signs or traffic lights because there would be nothing dangerous about driving. With the single faulty part removed (drivers), these machines will be able to map out a safer future.

As AIEZ is an auto insurance company, I’m certain the idea of driver safety is an important concern. Although I do believe that in the next 10 to 20 years there will be introductions of level 4 semi-autonomous vehicles, possibly even the more commonly thought of level 5 completely autonomous vehicles, this change will take far longer than 10 to 20 years to be fully in effect. It will take possibly a few hundred years or so for every person to be able to own and afford a fully autonomous vehicle, assuming this type of technology is even possible. But this is the way I believe the auto industry is heading towards, and all in the name of one thing: safety. Once this technology is developed within the next 10 to 20 years, it’s only a matter of time before the entire planet is mapped out, cars pass by each other within an inch of space, and vehicles will race down skinny roads at blazing speeds. With no room for mistakes, the world as we know it will be safer.

Although those changes are much farther in the future, one can only imagine where this technology will head next. Once reckless driving is eliminated, engineers can work on talking cars, removing gasoline from the system, and possibly even flying (okay maybe just hovering) personal vehicles. And although this prompt only refers to the next 10 to 20 years, isn’t it interesting to only imagine what’s to come after that?

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