Google, Nissan, Toyota, and Audi are all working hard to put out cars that drive themselves. At first glance, one might think the idea of a car driving itself might be nothing more than a Knight Rider fantasy, but I assure you this isn’t the case. Nevada, Florida, and California all have laws permitting driverless vehicles. And, just like marijuana laws, it’s likely to be something that spreads. Why? Because some people don’t want to drive, some people can’t drive, and some people just think it’s cool. Oh, and some are drunk or otherwise temporarily impaired. Let’s not forget about them. We’re all a lot better off if they’re not driving themselves.
For those who have trouble driving (for example, people with handicaps, or people who are elderly and don’t have the reflexes or clarity of thought), a self-driving car is a step toward independence. I mean, when you’re stuck in a situation where you want to go somewhere and have to rely on someone else for transportation, it’s not a good feeling. This eliminates that for those who can afford it. I know I’ve had elderly relatives in my life that would have benefited. Personally, I would have locked them into auto-drive mode if it were up to me. If you think a self-driving car is dangerous, then you’ve never seen my great grandfather behind the wheel of his Cadillac cruising the city streets at 60 MPH.
Do you fear autonomous cars? There may be good reason to fear them right now. The technology is very new. How will these vehicles respond when an accident occurs right in front of them? Humans all respond quit differently. Most of us suffer an initial reaction that boosts our heart rate and sends us into a reactionary mode where logical analysis isn’t part of the equation. It’s all about reflexes – when to put on the brakes, which direction to turn, who is behind us, will they stop in time, how hard to put on the breaks, changing lanes, etc. It’s all part of an internal equation that we don’t get time to think about. Computers, on the other hand, only consider the data, and they do it very rapidly. How they react is a matter of programming. So, if you get into a wreck in a self-driving car, you can blame the programmers. Can you sue them? I’m sure all the companies involved have lawyers standing by with your signatures on them should it happen.
On the other hand, If every car were self-driven, then the system might be extremely efficient. Imagine if the cars could talk to a central agency that told them which streets were the best route to take. Autonomous vehicles wouldn’t suffer from road rage. They might even be able to talk to each other in determining “who should go first” and “who should let who in” during a merge. You wouldn’t have assholes cruising down right turn lanes trying to get in front of you. Accidents would gradually decrease.
If that happened, insurance companies would get onboard. They’d jump at lowering accidents, and they’d start promoting these vehicles. If this continued, I’d suspect that at some point in the future, driving vehicles would become illegal. What? Is that insane? Well, maybe you might think so, but I can still see it happening. Why? Because if all vehicles drove themselves and this resulted in virtually NO automobile accidents, the money saved would be massive. But we’re a long way off from that. The cars will be talking to us by the time that happens.
Other benefits include navigation issues and commuting. Personally, I’d love it if I could read a book on the way to work, or write. And if someone told me to go somewhere I’ve never been, it would be great if I could just give the car the address and say, “go there.” I hate getting lost, and it always bugs me having to try and navigate a map or even a GPS while I’m trying to drive.