Monday, September 25, 2017

1849 Self Driving Cars

1849, year of the gold rush.  Crossing the great expanse of the United States in search of riches.
2017, year of the parking space “rush,” seen above. Racing along the Cross Bronx Expressway in your self driving Smart forTwo?  Wedged between two 18 wheelers, one leaking goo resembling Log Cabin Syrup and smelling like a combination of Chanel No. 5 and a spittoon.

Racing isn’t exactly a term you’d apply to this or any other major highway.  But if you can go at half a mile an hour and pass three cars during that half mile, you’re a winner.

As we’ve been told by major brand car makers and internet sites, the self driving car is just around the bend.  It’ll soon be here and traffic jams like this one which starts at 3:30 am each day and lasts until 3:29 am the next, will be a thing of the past.

Pure nonsense.

So far, the test cars act like a demolition derby but with new tin and real injuries.  Eventually they’ll overcome the technical problems.  That’s when the real work begins.

If you think gun owners are a clingy lot, wait until you see what happens when instead of “coming for your guns,” the next Obama-like president will actually come for your cars.

Where is Charlton Heston when you need him? “You’ll get my car when you pry the steering wheel out of my cold dead hand” (and off that telephone pole.)

Americans love their cars.  Traffic jams or none, they want that autonomy and control that goes with making your own route and your own schedule.

There are an estimated 230-million privately owned cars and trucks on the road right now.  (That’s some busy road!)  

Replace all of them with self drivers?  Not in five lifetimes.  Banning them may be legally possible.  But such a law can’t be enforced. And yet, all the manufacturers are racing to be first with a practical and affordable model.

Driving these days is scary enough without having no control over your vehicle.  Drivers will go through the motions even if there’s no steering wheel and no pedals, just as they do now when they’re passengers.

And remember, please, computer reliability is an oxymoron. We may have progressed beyond the Blue Screen of Death.  But we haven’t yet been able to eliminate this phrase from the lingo: “I’m sorry to keep you waiting but our computers are slow right now.”

A slow computer in a self driving car will brake to a stop only after first hitting and killing that pedestrian.  What happens when your self-applying brake encounters “error #2314a,” a complete disconnection from the brain?  It will no longer be funny to see news footage of cars driving through the McDonald’s line when that particular McDonald’s doesn’t have a drive-through window.

Yes, self driving cars are inevitable.  But they’re not going to be here tomorrow.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2017

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