A Discussion on Self-Driving Cars

Many people argue that technology is a good servant but a bad master. Both ancient and modern human activities have benefited or been disadvantaged by technological innovations. Technology is the practical application of scientific knowledge and skills in the innovation of devices, chemicals, gadgets, and machines meant to improve the quality of life (Weaver et al. 4). It encompasses the production of computers, calculators, tablets, robots, self-driven cars, and much more. Technology has become necessary for societies to thrive as it permeates almost every aspect of human lives. Even though technology has helped society to transform, this transformation has not come without a price. It has brought forth change in every aspect beginning from human relationships, culture, religion, environmental change, democratic change in states and the world.

Typically, the language of marketing innovations such as driverless cars is remarkably distinct and separate from everyday language. The rhetorical components and odd syntactic order of words distinguish the language of autonomous vehicle marketing. A common view of this technology is ambitious: it proposes that self-driving cars will be widely accessible for all types of uses in thirty years. This paper examines the presses, scholars and experts’ rhetorical depiction of autonomous cars, the roots of the notion regarding its advantages and disadvantages, and how these narratives shape its acceptance.


In his article, Of America and the Rise of the Stupefied Plutocrat, Lapham applies pathos to lament against the changes which the internet has brought to democracy. Democracy involves a government in which supreme power is vested in the people. This power, as Lapham asserts, can either be exercised directly or indirectly through the election of leaders. Further, he complains that the quality of democracy in the US is likely to decrease since the states are likely to fall into authoritarian power. Mainly, Lapham uses pathos to invoke a sense of fear in his audience. According, to Lapham the social change that occurs in societies where democracy is practiced results from technology that hinders citizens from actually practicing democracy (Lapham). He goes ahead to argue that though technology has enabled voices to be heard, it has similarly weakened democracy by enabling the government and state to erode privacy by silencing those who speak against it.

To convince his audience, he speaks of the shooting deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Here, it is apparent that Lapham tries to invoke fear of technology and feeds on that fear to appear credible. Lapham speaks of the changes brought about by the internet that have affected the social, cultural, technological, sexual, economic, and demographic values of the family, community, and nation. He suggests that these are where democracy draws its roots from but are no longer sacred, which appeals to the audience’s ethos.

Like Lapham, Neil Postman explains that there is a corresponding disadvantage for every benefit technology has brought about. For example, he talks of the automobile, which has benefited the world in so many ways (Postman 4). However, the automobile has poisoned the air, choked cities, and degraded the environment’s natural beauty. Postman wants the audience to use their logic and relate the technology with its corresponding adverse effects by listing these examples. Postman also argues that the advantages and disadvantages of technology are never distributed evenly across the population (Postman 9). This means that some people are more advantaged or disadvantaged by technology than others, while others are not even affected. In this way, he implies that technology leads to inequality which is unethical.

Many arguments for technology, such as driverless cars, frequently use decorated and positive language. Often, this projection is more optimistic as the press, and self-driving car enthusiasts assert that most automobiles will be completely autonomous in less than fifteen years. High-profile corporate information and consultancy firms have also embraced this fantasy (Ferràs-Hernández 856). Users will hop into these cars, choose a location, and let the car drive them to the destination as they do other things, including seeing, drinking, watching movies, and conversing with others. All these will happen without having to worry about crushing the care due to distractions. Although this dream has many advantages, there have been increasing concerns about entrusting one’s judgment to and unique learned driving ability to a mere computer timeline.

The New York Times editorial board, in their article, Ushering in a Safe, Driverless Future, opines that mandated laws for autonomous cars are critical to the growth of this technology. The article aims to illustrate how autonomous cars can be dangerous yet are merely a technical solution to help eliminate future traffic disasters. This piece is addressed towards American drivers to demonstrate that autonomous cars are hardly dangerous. The authors coherently present their perspective by employing pathos, logos, and ethos to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. In the first column, logos is demonstrated by depicting a recent real-life occurrence as proof. The article stresses from the beginning that self-driving cars are not perfect and have had problems in the past (Kingsbury et al.). As such, there is genuine worry about adopting the technology without addressing those issues.

To illustrate this point, the article highlights an autonomous car crash that involved a Tesla Model S. This brings the readers awareness to the hazards of having a self-driving automobile. On the surface, this appears as an appeal to the reader’s emotions which immediately strikes the fear of autonomous cars. However, since the article favors this technology, it quickly dispels such fears by providing evidence from researchers on the safety and convenience of driverless cars. The authors then flip the phrase to state that policymakers and automakers’ ethical responsibility to get things right and save countless lives by making safe autonomous cars (Kingsbury et al.). This strong line also employs pathos to indicate that, notwithstanding individuals’ concerns about self-driving cars, such accidents will be a thing of the past if they do this correctly.

Researchers have also shown that advertising for automobiles relies heavily on rhetorical tactics, in addition to an aggressive marketing plan. The primary goal of advertising discourse is to win over potential clients’ hearts and minds. Advertisers for automobiles are consciously aware of the need to appeal to potential buyers’ emotions in their ads (Diez-Arroyo 10). For example, the phrase “built with you in mind” would imply an attempt to reassure prospective automobile buyers that their wants and requirements will be fully met if they purchase the marketed vehicle. In addition to rhetoric, automobile manufacturers make sure that the ad is generated to include information on the advantages and merits of the vehicle in question. The vehicle advertisement claims that the marketed product is legitimate to develop its own identity to promote, inform, and persuade the buyer.

With the development of autonomous cars, various ethical issues have arisen. Firstly, there are different opinions on who should be held liable when people get hurt or even die (Hong 1769). The car manufacturers would be held responsible, maybe due to any technical problem that may have caused the crash. This will, in turn, encourage manufacturers of self-driven cars to heavily invest in making quality vehicles to protect their brand image and avoid criminal consequences in case of an accident. Likewise, some believe that the owners of such cars should be held responsible in case of a crash (Gless 414). This points to the fact that these owners understand the risks involved when using driverless vehicles.

Suppose self-driving car manufacturers and owners cannot be held liable for accidents resulting in injury or death, then that leaves the car. However, machines cannot be held liable for the loss of human life or injury during their use, as this would be illogical. A logical path is to have owners of such vehicles sign a user- agreement form. Then, in case of an accident, either of the two can be assigned accountability. Perhaps the most feasible option is to have the car insured. With a premium insurance plan, the owners of driverless cars would transfer costs of damages cost by accidents to their insurance companies.

Secondly, autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing methods of operation in various industries. For example, in the mining industry, driverless cars increase workers’ safety by taking miners through and out of submerged areas in tunnels. This technology has been adopted due to its ability to save labor costs and reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions to the environment (Liu et al. 466). Furthermore, a move towards driverless cars powered by electricity reduces the use of fossil fuels in vehicles. This transition will reduce the amount of carbon emission in the environment, a win in the fight against global warming.

Self-driven vehicles also reduce carelessness on roads which can help to lower the number of life claims on American roads. Autonomous vehicles have made it easy for elderly and disabled people to move from place to place. Older adults with chronic illnesses such as dementia and slow reactions, including blind people, will be able to travel to any destination of their choice. They have therefore improved transportation services in the society (Banerjee et al. 21). At times, these people may lose control of the car, causing accidents. When driverless cars are used, elderly and disabled people become comfortable and can move to whichever destination they want since they are not required to control the car. Driverless cars also have GPS to detect places and locations; thus, the user cannot get lost.

The adoption of self-driving cars will also make life more convenient. Self-driven cars are more intelligent than regular cars, an attribute that makes them more interesting. They operate on artificial intelligence, meaning that the car can detect the user moods, know the passenger’s destination, and adapt to varying circumstances and demands of the user. For example, the engine will not start unless the user buckles up for safety reasons. This contrasts with the typical car that only works under the operation of human effort and mind. In addition, self-driven cars rely on artificial intelligence since they have computers to assist them in their function. This means that users can browse the internet while in the car, find destinations, and work while traveling.

Self-driving cars will also reduce parking issues often associated with standard cars. Typically, some households have more than one car, in which case only one car is used most of the time while the others remain parked. With self-driven cars, the rate of car ownership is likely to reduce. A driverless car does not need to be in a fixed position all the time. It can take an individual to work the head back home and take the rest out. The reduction in car ownership also increases the amount of green space left. There will be no need to waste a lot of space on parking lots and garages. The space can therefore be utilized to build schools, hospitals, and parks, which are equally important. Additionally, this helps to reduce carbon emission into the atmosphere as few gas-fueled cars will be on the roads.

Transitioning to driverless cars will enable people to save the thousands of dollars spent annually on fuel. These savings could come about from reduced fuel consumption, reduction of accidents, and improved productivity of the vehicle users. Time is also a resource that could be saved with the use of self-driven vehicles. According to research made, in 2016, drivers were estimated to have spent 50.5 minutes driving each day (Tefft). However, with the use of self-driven vehicles, people will no longer have to drive their cars. The time that could have been spent on driving can otherwise be used for other essential activities or learning new skills. More importantly, it is estimated that by 2050 the driverless market will be worth $203 billion (LeBeau). This will result in increased revenue for governments and driverless car manufactures.

On the flip side, self-driving cars will cause massive job losses, particularly in the taxi industry. This will force truck and taxi drivers to find other employment forms as they will no longer be needed to drive vehicles. Due to these emerging forms of technology, jobs in the transportation sector will diminish (Pettigrew et al. 14). Taxi drivers will be required to move to other industries to get new jobs with no surety. This is not to say that self-driving cars will not create employment since they require servicing and washing like other cars. However, such opportunities will be limited because not all drivers will have the capital or skills to start or venture into new sectors.

At the same time, self-driving cars face the evolving threat of cyberterrorism. It is theoretically possible to hack every computer system that has a connection to the external universe. Anyone who has worked in computer science understands that creating software free of flaws is highly challenging, mainly when the program is complicated. In some cases, bugs such as flaws in software coding can be exploited by hackers to cause devastating damage (Linkov 6). Therefore, more sophisticated systems like autonomous cars could have weaknesses that hackers could exploit or depend on inputs to make judgments that hackers could manipulate. For instance, a street sign that appears to a person as a busy intersection may be made to seem like a different sign to an automobile. The consequences of such a scenario are unimaginable.

Self-driven cars are made with complex technology, hence making them hard to be used by the elderly. Moreover, it becomes difficult for them to stop or control the car in case of an emergency. It is also hard for the elderly to figure out how to use applications like GPS, meaning that they can get lost. Therefore, there is a need for driverless cars to be developed more so that they can be easy enough to be used by all people regardless of age or ability.

Finally, transitioning towards autonomous cars will lead to the massive dumping of conventional cars. The lingering question is where people will take those cars because they will, without a doubt, create a lot of waste. This will pollute the environment and derail the progress made towards eliminating climate change. Ultimately, it will also be quite expensive for governments to replace all roads in countries to fit the standards that driverless cars can go through. The downside to this is that governments will increase taxes for their citizens, thus raising the cost of living.

Re-negotiations between the human labor force and the functions of machines have been a constant feature of human technological advancement since the dawn of industrialization. Technological advancements in artificial intelligence machine learning, battery capacity expansion, and quicker communications connectivity have contributed to a widening of the possibilities for routine automation. In the long run, the possibility of humans transitioning to the use of self-driving cars is imminent. As with every technology, the advantages and disadvantages of driverless cars have been presented using persuasive language targeting consumers’ logic, emotions, and ethics. The degree to which these rhetorical devices influence the decision to accept or reject driverless cars remains uncertain. However, as shown above, the arguments for the full adoption of driverless cars outweigh those against them.

Works Cited

Banerjee, T., et al. “Self-driving cars: A Peep into the Future.” 2017 8th Annual Industrial Automation and Electromechanical Engineering Conference (IEMECON). IEEE, 2017.

Diez-Arroyo, Marisa. “Metarepresentation and Echo in Online Automobile Advertising.” Lingua, vol. 201, 2018, 1-17.

Ferràs-Hernández, Xavier, Elisenda Tarrats-Pons, and Núria Arimany-Serrat. “Disruption in the Automotive Industry: A Cambrian Moment.” Business Horizons, vol. 60, no. 6, 2017, 855-863.

Gless, Sabine, Emily Silverman, and Thomas Weigend. “If Robots Cause Harm, Who Is to Blame? Self-driving Cars and Criminal Liability.” New Criminal Law Review, vol. 19, no. 3, 2016, 412-436.

Hong, Joo-Wha. “Why Is Artificial Intelligence Blamed More? Analysis of Faulting Artificial Intelligence for Self-Driving Car Accidents in Experimental Settings.” International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, vol. 36, no. 18, 2020, 1768-1774.

Lapham, Lewis. “Lewis Lapham: Of America and the Rise of the Stupefied Plutocrat.” Literary Hub, 2018, Web.

LeBeau, Phil. “The $7 Trillion Promise of Self-Driving Vehicles.” CNBC, 2017, Web.

Linkov, Václav et al. “Human Factors in the Cybersecurity of Autonomous Vehicles: Trends in Current Research.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 10, 2019, 995. Web.

Liu, Feiqi, et al. “Can Autonomous Vehicle Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions? A Country-Level Evaluation.” Energy Policy, vol. 132, 2019, 462-473.

Pettigrew, Simone, Lin Fritschi, and Richard Norman. “The Potential Implications of Autonomous Vehicles in and Around the Workplace.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 9,2018, 1876.

Postman, Neil. “The Judgment of Thamus.” Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 1992, 3-20.

Tefft, Brian C. “American Driving Survey, 2015 – 2016.” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2018, Web.

Kingsbury, K., et al. “Ushering in a Safe, Driverless Future.” The New York Times, 2016, Web.

Weaver, Paul, et al. Sustainable Technology Development. Routledge, 2017.

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