Fall 2023 (21st Century Debate Research):

Self-Driving Vehicles

Every few months (seasonally) the 21st Century Debate Institution releases a series of debate topics for students to debate at our online (and eventually in-person) events. 

This topic is intended for students learning “skills” debate.

For more information about upcoming contests, and how you might participate, please use the “events calendar” from the above menu. Or you can click here: Upcoming Events.

[Fall 2023 (SEPT-OCT)]
"Skills" Debate Topic

Topic: On-balance, the use of self-driving vehicles is desirable.


Will self-driving cars cause more harm or good? It’s hard to say for sure. To form an educated opinion, consider these pros and cons of autonomous cars. Ask three of your friends how they feel about self-driving cars. You’ll probably get three totally different reactions. One person will express excitement about how stuff they can get done during their long commute. The second might express fear about letting robots do all the driving. The third response will be somewhere in the middle. What’s the truth? I don’t know. For a fair and balanced perspective, let’s consider the good and bad. — Women Auto Know, October 03, 2017

Benefits of Self-Driving Vehicles (PRO)

1. Enhanced Road Safety: Self-driving cars are designed to follow traffic rules meticulously, reducing the number of accidents caused by human error. They are equipped with sensors that allow them to react to unforeseen circumstances more quickly than humans. 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2. Reduced Traffic Congestion: Autonomous vehicles can communicate with each other to optimize traffic flow, reducing congestion and improving road conditions. This networked communication leads to more efficient use of roadways, reducing the time spent in traffic. 

3. Environmental Benefits: Self-driving vehicles are often electric or hybrid, contributing to lower emissions. Additionally, their ability to drive in the most efficient manner possible reduces fuel consumption, further decreasing their environmental impact. 

Harms of Self-Driving Vehicles (CON)

1. Safety Concerns: Despite the potential for enhanced road safety, self-driving cars are not entirely foolproof. They can be vulnerable to software glitches, sensor failures, or hacking, which could result in accidents. 

2. Job Displacement: The widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles could lead to significant job losses in sectors reliant on human drivers, such as trucking and taxi services. This transition could exacerbate unemployment and require retraining programs. 
Brookings Institution.

3. Ethical Dilemmas: Autonomous vehicles may face situations where ethical decisions are required, such as choosing between the safety of the passenger and that of a pedestrian. Current technology is not equipped to make such moral judgments. — Nature.


Please watch all of the required videos (& take notes) before arriving to the first debate class meeting.

Required Research (Videos):

[VideoVolvo and Uber self-driving animation.
EFTM Online, June 12, 2019 [2 min]

[VideoU.S. clears way for self-driving vehicle w/o steering wheel or pedals,
CNN Business, February 6, 2020 [1 min] <– Please read the article too. ty

[VideoCheerful Waymo ad highlights ways we’ll use self-driving cars ,
The Verge, May 3, 2020 [1 min]

[Video] Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Cars,
GCF Global, April 28, 2020 [3 min]

[Video] 7 Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Cars,
Bright Side, April 6, 2020 [9 min]

Required Research (Articles):

[Article]/[PDFSelf-driving Cars Are No Longer a Thing of the Future,
TIME Magazine, January 9, 2015

[VideoU.S. clears way for self-driving vehicle w/o steering wheel or pedals,
CNN Business, February 6, 2020 <– Please watch the video too. ty

[Article]/[PDF4 Pros and Cons of Autonomous Cars,
Women Auto Know, October 03, 2017

[Article]/[PDF20 Pros and Cons of Driverless Cars,
Louise Gaille, Vittana.org, April 1, 2019


Please consider watching/reading the following research areas in order to prepare for upcoming events.

Optional Research (Videos):

[Video] Self-Driving Tech Companies Aren’t Developing Fast Enough,
Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2022 [8 min]

Optional Research (Articles):

[Article]/[PDF] 32 Advantages & Disadvantages of Self-Driving Cars,
Environmental Conscience, Last Accessed: July 2023
Note: It’s not a nice-looking PDF for this article. Please use the link instead.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH (Evidence & Arguments)

Here are some potentially useful outlines for evidence, arguments, & rebuttals/rejoinders.


Contact Information

Bill Eddy,
Email: BillEddy@21stCenturyDebate.org
Phone: 714.655.8135 (I prefer text)

Note: When contacting me, please include your name and class information (day/time). Thanks

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