Autonomous Vehicles: My Thoughts

It seems that many people are afraid of driver-less or self-driving cars these days.  There have been some articles of late that discuss issues with different manufacturers.  Google has been testing them for a while and Tesla’s driver assist functionality is amazing, especially the assisted parking.  I have a friend with a Tesla and experienced the assisted parking first-hand a year ago.  He purposely pulled awkwardly in front of a space with his rear facing the opening.  He let the car park itself which it did more gracefully than most human drivers.  It was literally smooth.  I understand, though, with years of SCI-FI teaching us that robots will one day take over the world and who knows what might happen if all our automobiles decided to turn against us.  I am of the opinion that it would be as safe, or safer, to have autonomous vehicles on the road, with or without passengers, as it is now.  My family attends a martial arts school that is an hour away.  We often head up in the early afternoon to miss traffic on the interstate, and then head back around 9 pm.  There have been many times on the way home at night where we have passed either drunk drivers, or sleepy drivers.  In either case, they are putting others at risk.  So, there is a safety factor that must be considered. Do the safety benefits outweigh the dangers?  Time will tell.

Another factor to consider with driver-less cars is the matter of time.  No matter what we do, even if we design robots to do everything for us, we only have 24 hours in a day.  No one has ever successfully turned a day into more than 24 hours.  Many people spend hours a day commuting.  Some because of distance and others because of horrendous traffic.  Either way, it is a time drain for everyone on the road.  What if you were able to spend that 1 – 4 hours a day reclined in your automobile working on your laptop or watching the morning news.  I imagine this could do wonders for the stress level many people have today.  I travel a lot for work, and I am always jealous when I ride the rail system of a community and see how much more laid back the commute is for others.  I think we can do better. We can design cars so that they are more intelligent and efficient.  If the driverless car knows when to take a better route, alert authorities to roadside emergencies, and when to shut down the engine, it could mean a lot for the environment and public safety.

I have children, so the thought has occurred to me about children being tossed into a self-driving car and shuttled off to school.  This idea does scare me, to be honest.  There is something to be said for taking our kids to school and picking them up.  I am grateful that mine homeschool now, so we spend plenty of time together, but this is not true for every parent.  It will be interesting to see what laws and regulations come about as a result of these driverless cars.  It can actually impact many areas of our life, from our stress level to our family life.  The future truly is thing of wonder.  We have come so far, but we have so much further to go.  Perhaps, the automobile will be one of the biggest innovations of all time…once again.