The increase in the number of self-driving cars will lead to more binge drinking, as people no longer have to worry about driving home from a pub or club, a study claims.
Researchers at Curtin University, Australia, say that if a group doesn’t have to nominate a designated driver because of an autonomous car, they are likely to drink more.
The team found that more than a third of adults would increase the amount they would usually drink if they could rely on a driverless car to take them home.
Lead author Leon Booth said self-driving cars would lower rates for drunk driving, but would increase the amount of alcohol consumed by the population.
The increase in the number of self-driving cars will lead to more binge drinking, as people no longer have to worry about driving home from a pub or club, a study claims. Stock image
Of the 1,334 Australians surveyed in the study, 49 percent believe they are likely to use an autonomous car after drinking alcohol.
The study also found that 37 percent of people said they would likely drink more than they normally would if they didn’t have to drive their own car.
Booth said the results pose a series of problems for health and policy officials, as the benefits of self-driving cars may outweigh the negatives.
This comes in the form of “more common alcohol consumption through greater availability of affordable and convenient transportation,” he said.
“We surveyed 1,334 adult Australians, about half of whom said they would use an autonomous vehicle after consuming alcohol, while more than a third were likely to consume more alcohol if they intended to use an autonomous vehicle (AV).
Lower age, more frequent alcohol consumption, a positive attitude toward autonomous vehicles, and a preference for ride-share AVs were associated with a greater chance of engaging in this behavior. ‘
The team investigated the likely impact of a steady increase in the number of autonomous vehicles on alcohol consumption through a broad study among Australians.
Co-author Professor Simone Pettigrew said that the introduction of vehicles will produce a mixture of positive and negative health effects.
“This poses a complex challenge for policymakers tasked with reducing alcohol-related harm,” she said.
“A particular challenge is the need to encourage the use of autonomous vehicles after drinking without encouraging drinking as such.”
She said more research is needed as more people start using driverless vehicles as the market is currently “ very limited ”.
“Once autonomous vehicles are readily available, they can be used as a means of facilitating outdoor alcohol consumption and more frequent drinking of heavy drinks,” said Professor Pettigrew.
Self-driving cars have a number of important public health benefits in reducing the risk of accidents, including those related to drunk driving.
The team looked at the impact of services like Uber on the reduction of drunk driving as part of their research to estimate the impact AVs would have.
“Although the reports are mixed, some estimates suggest that ride services have reduced alcohol-related road deaths by 1 to 6 percent per quarter, which is attributed to their convenience and affordability.”
The team found that more than a third of adults would increase the amount they would usually drink if they could rely on a driverless car to take them home. Stock image
The team says that since AVs are cheaper to drive per ride than taxi-style services, it would have a greater impact on driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as increasing drinking.
Younger respondents, more frequent drinkers, those with a positive attitude towards AVs and those with a higher intention of using AV ride sharing services were more likely to drink more.
Since human exposure to AVs has been very limited so far, more research will be needed as these vehicles become available on Australian roads to assess whether people’s drinking behavior is actually changing in the way they expect. ‘
Pettigrew expects the vehicles to be available to the mass market around the world by the middle of the decade, but will not be universal at first.
“AVs are expected to work alongside traditional vehicles for decades,” the authors wrote in their paper.
“Ideally, during this transition period, drivers choose to use AVs instead of traditional vehicles after consuming alcohol to reduce drunk driving.”
HOW ‘SEE’ SELF-FIGHTING CARS?
Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing ‘LiDAR’ units to recognize the world around them.
Others, however, use visible light cameras that capture images of the roads and streets.
They are trained with a wealth of information and huge databases of hundreds of thousands of clips that are processed with artificial intelligence to accurately identify people, signs and dangers.
In LiDAR (light detection and distance sensing) scanning – used by Waymo – one or more lasers emit short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle.
These sensors continuously scan the surrounding areas for information and act as the ‘eyes’ of the car.
Although the units provide depth information, their low resolution makes it difficult to detect small, distant objects without the help of a normal camera linked to them in real time.
Last November, Apple revealed details about its self-driving car system that uses lasers to detect pedestrians and cyclists remotely.
The Apple researchers said they could achieve “ very encouraging results ” with spotting pedestrians and cyclists using only LiDAR data.
They also wrote that they could beat other approaches to detecting three-dimensional objects using only LiDAR.
Other self-driving cars usually rely on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers.
An example is Volvo’s self-driving cars, which depend on approximately 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.
A network of computers processes information, which together with GPS generates a real-time map of moving and stationary objects in the environment.
Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects close to the vehicle and support autonomous driving at low speeds.
A wave radar and windshield camera reads road signs and road curvature and can detect objects on the road, such as other road users.
Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.
Two long-range radars on the bumper are used to detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from far, which is useful on highways.
Four cameras – two on the door mirrors, one on the grille and one on the rear bumper – monitor objects near the car and lane markings.