Years ago there was a television program called Knight Rider. A black car named KITT would roll up to the main man, have a conversation, then drive off to adventure. Back then, it was science fiction to even conceive of a self-driving car. Movies like “I, Robot”, “Demolition Man” and “Total Recall” enhanced the dream.
But would self-driving cars be a good idea? There has been a slow introduction with cars that will help you parallel park, and cars that will automatically brake if you get too close to the car in front. We already use GPS to direct us to our destination.
All of these driving aids still require us to be in control of the vehicle. We still need to sit behind the wheel and steer. A true self-driving car would eventually place the occupant on the back seat with a newspaper or tablet in hand and require no input. No driver’s license would be required.
Chris Urmson, the head of Google’s self driving car project, is doing all he can to prevent his 11-year-old son from having to get a driver’s license in about 4 year’s time.
Would completely autonomous cars be a good idea? Let’s look at some arguments:
- Over 80 percent of all car crashes are because of human error. By putting the driving in the ‘hands’ of a computer, this would be eliminated.
- Some people have bad driving habits. Illness, frustration and lack of focus all affect the kind of driving you do. A computer has consistent driving habits no matter what – it won’t be affected by sneezes, moods or lack of caffeine.
- With cell phones ringing and texting, finding music and children and pets in the car, it’s easy to get distracted. The number of road deaths caused by texting and talking on the phone have risen alarmingly in the last decade. A computer never gets “distracted”, it just remains on task.
- By using algorithms that determine distance, appropriate stopping, and accurate navigation, self-driving cars decrease car accident possibilities.
- A life is valued at 9.2 million dollars by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The mere cost savings in insurance and healthcare alone due the reduction in accidents would be monumental.
- Many of the out of pocket expenses associated with accident recovery would be reduced.
- Not everyone can afford a chauffeur, this would allow drivers to do other things like chat, read, or make important phone calls. That hour commute would be transformed to a down-time or a work-time block added to the day making life a bit richer.
- Self driving cars do something in a group called platooning, this could improve traffic and congestion, especially in cities. In high traffic, this would reduce gas usage and smooth out commutes.
Did you know that self driving cars communicate with each other? This helps them and their complex algorithms identify and abate potential traffic problems and risks due to construction or weather before they occur, sometimes creating a self imposed detour to avoid problems.
The disabled population currently has to use public transportation, assistance from friends, family and outside forces, or use public transportation. This community could have additional freedom with the enhanced mobility and comfort of a self driving car. With some disabled it would reduce the expensive additional machinery to deal with their disability and current retro fitting to some cars so they can drive.
In large cities, which were busy and congested in the last centuries, are now overwhelmed with the amount of traffic, and are beleaguered with trying to provide adequate public transportation. This could be partially acerbated with the use of self driving cars. The 128 loop of Boston, I-95 in CT leading to New York City and Dupont Circle in Washington DC are classic congestion hells at commute hour adding often 2 hours or more to a mundane commute. Self driving cars could reduce the problems by creating a smoother traffic flow.
If many people are using self driving cars, higher speed limits could be considered. Computers calculate the vehicle safety and create maximum operation conditions. Imagine zipping to a major city for your favorite show at Acela speeds rather than bumper to bumper traffic. Reducing drive time could have many lifestyle benefits.
This new industry could create new jobs, employment opportunities and economic growth. There are seven companies who have filed for licenses and permits to develop and manufacture self driving cars in California. Other states have companies looking at this possibility as well. In fact, according to Business Insider, there are 19 large companies looking to take over the self driving car market.
Currently, there are many new cars are equipped with features in the beginning of what is known as “automatic” driving. Features like self-parking, autonomous braking, GPS, or sensors that can alert a driver of a nearby obstacle.
Because you don’t need to coerce your BFF to be a designated driver, drunk driving would decrease and possibly be eliminated. This would make a DUI a thing of the past, and many would benefit from not having that as another thing to worry about. Expensive court costs related to drunk driving and the penalties would be eliminated. The national average cost of DUI is around $10,000, though it varies from state to state, and with subsequent violations increases dramatically.
Police officers could shift from mundane traffic tickets managing other community issues and serious crimes.
Self-driving cars have sensors which allow cars to drive in closer proximity, this allows more cars on the road and the illusion of less traffic.
Parking would be much easier. Your car would have a feature that it could drop you off at the door and locate a parking space on it’s own, much farther away.
With a self-dropping off and self-parking feature, wouldn’t put the driver at risk walking dark streets to get to a badly parked car. Personal safety would increase.
The endless line at the DMV would be eliminated. People wouldn’t be required to own a specialized driver’ license to operate a self driving cars.
As we age, the judgment of distance and the ability to see are reduced, as well as remembering where to drive to get somewhere.
There are many advantages to a self driving car.
And no matter how loud our yays and nays on the idea of driving automation, self driving cars are coming – as sure as winter.