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Waymo and the Morality of Self-Driving Cars

An image of a Waymo self-driving car.

What was once fiction is becoming a reality. In past decades, sci-fi novels and television have featured self-driving cars; this once-futuristic concept is finally coming to fruition. Will the result mirror the positive outcomes shown in fiction? Self-driving cars are intended to increase safety and efficiency in our society, but what are the moral implications and consequences that could come from such technology?

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The Costs of a World Without Fossil Fuel-Powered Cars

On July 4, car giant Volvo announced its plan to suspend all production of non-electric or hybrid cars by the year 2019. This means that Volvo will not produce any new diesel or gasoline-powered cars in only two years. In reaction to this announcement, France’s new cabinet released an ambitious plan to ban all diesel and petroleum-fueled car sales by 2040. Though France is not the only country to take this approach to clean energy transition, regulating the sale of petroleum-fueled cars is still very rare. France’s ecology minister stated that the new standard was “a way to fight against air pollution.” Though this move is being applauded by many environmentalists, is the French government’s regulation of petroleum fueled cars really better for the environment? And how will this new regulation influence socioeconomic inequality?

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They’re Baaack: Volkswagen and Environmental Responsibility

It seemed as though the world had seen the end of Volkswagen after a massive scandal was uncovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in September 2015. One of VW’s major marketing campaigns in the United States was flaunting their diesel cars’ low emissions. It turns out, in fact, that they had been cheating on emissions tests for years by installing software in their cars to detect when an emissions test was being run. At least 482,000 cars were discovered with this “defeat device” in the United States, and the German car maker admitted to producing 11 million cars worldwide with this device as well. The crisis has even been termed “Dieselgate” by some. With society’s trend towards environmental consciousness, many were unsure how VW would recover from this.

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Do Driverless Cars Infringe on Personal Freedom?

Picture yourself in a sterile cabin sitting atop four wheels. The only sound you hear is the soft hum of an electric engine. There is not much there except for four seats. The dashboard is bare, and it only has a large screen showing the remainder of your trip on a map — there is no steering wheel.  The tinted windows block out the sun; still, you are able to see outside. You can observe a swarm of cars moving in a peloton through a downtown area—at a frightening speed—breaking their even spacing to cross an intersection, where a pileup is avoided by only a few millimeters, as another swarm of cars crosses the intersection perpendicular to you.

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