Self-Driving Cars

I feel a lot of interest in Google’s development of a self-driving car. The technology is certainly here, now. We could roll out a whole new regime of driving in five years, from what I can see. What hold us back are political and legal concerns. People are made very uneasy by something so new occupying such a central place in society. They are wary of large, heavy objects hurtling about without human guidance.

So my question is: what will push us past these concerns? What positive attractions will convince us to adopt this exhilarating, life-changing innovation?

There is the possibility of greatly alleviating traffic woes, as computer-driven cars need much less safety space between them. There is the prospect of much greater highway safety, as drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and poor drivers no longer put themselves and the rest of us at risk. There is the attraction of reading a book, playing a game, or watching a movie while you drive.

There is the ambition (of car companies) to sell millions of new, wonderful, expensive gadgets.

For my money, though, the force most likely to propel self-driving cars into orbit is my generation: aging baby boomers. Old people don’t drive as well. Old people ultimately don’t drive at all. They thus lose control of their lives: can’t shop, can’t go to the doctor, can’t go to a concert, can’t go to church. Somebody else has to drive them.

But with self driving cars, elders can remain independent much, much longer. When they (and their children) realize this, they will be hard to stop.

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One Response to “Self-Driving Cars”

  1. Ed Eubanks Says:

    One of my favorite podcasts JUST did an episode on this:
    http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/johnnycab-automation-paradox-pt-2/

    If you listen (or read the show notes), you’ll see that they point out several practical snags that would make it, if not difficult, then at least inconvenient. It’s a fascinating discussion.

    I like the concept/plan of the last guy (Raj Rajkumar) who sees it phasing in one feature at a time. But I think your point about aging Baby Boomers is a valuable one, and his plan wouldn’t really accommodate them.

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