Thursday, February 18, 2016

Would You Use a Self Driving Car?

My mother in law formally gave up driving yesterday.

Yesterday, she turned her leased car back in.  She no longer has a car to drive, although she still has her license.  She does not intend to drive again.

For her and many other seniors, giving up driving is a milestone, and not a good one.

For many seniors, no longer being able to drive, either because of health issues or physical issues, also means giving up their independence.

My brother in law, who is developmentally disabled, has never driven, either.

So wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if we had self driving cars?   The elderly, those with conditions that don't permit motor vehicle operation even with technological assistance, the developmentally disabled and even those too young to operate a motor vehicle safely but old enough to be transported without their parents could all enjoy a degree of independence.  It would change a lot about the way we live.

We know that some, including Google, are working on true self-driving cars.  But how long will it be? 

It's all about...wait for it....autonomy.

How about a little thought experiment?

Let's say a self-driving car was announced tomorrow.  Or even next week, or next year.

Would we, those of us who are used to controlling their own cars, ever be comfortable riding in such a car?

Would hackers and terrorists be able to take over these cars and cause massive destruction on the highway?  It's already been done, in test situations, with cars not truly self driving.

It would certainly involve a transition period. 

I can see a long period where, even if an actual self driving car hit the market, a person would still need to sit behind the wheel, and pay attention.  But how many of us would just fall into our smartphones out of boredom and not be paying attention when the computer suddenly wanted to give control back to us?

I think, though, the time will come for self driving cars to be accepted, and it will be sooner than we think.  And, in a matter of years, it will seem so natural to the generation growing up during the transition period that driving yourself, with all the imperfections in driving our human nature creates, would even become repugnant.

I remember reading a science fiction story as a teen (I am 63) about a man pulled over for driving - driving himself - and sentenced to the death penalty because he had taken control over from the self driving mechanism, and made a mistake in his driving.

I only wish I could remember the title, or the author.

What do you think about self driving cars? 


  1. I so wish we had mass transit in the Detroit metro area. All we have is lousy sporadic bus service. They are spending $1 billion to widen a freeway here to eliminate rush hour traffic jams. As if. What a waste of $$$. Anyway, some folks around here should be in self-driving cars. Would make my life a lot safer. Since when do we make left turns from the right hand lane???? Oh, yeah. That happened Saturday. While I would happily take mass transit and let someone else be in control, I am not sure I am ready for a computer and me to be driving a car.

  2. Well, Alana, you already know my opinion...
    And, I can just see two cars (with their synthetic voices) yelling at each other, declaring the other the cause of the accident!

  3. It may be my control-freakish tendencies, but I would have to observe the self-driven car in action and without collision for a few years before I would embrace it. In theory, it's nice. How many things could I check off my to-do list? How many thoughts could I write down and take action on while I'm driving? I have many thoughts while driving that immediately vanish the minute I park. Dang it.

  4. I don't know if I could give up control... I seem to have a problem with that one! I do agree its going to happen sooner rather than later.

  5. I've had enough technical glitches with cars that don't drive themselves, I can't imagine a self driving car for me!

  6. something to think about, thank you for your time

  7. I want one! Especially for my husband because his driving gets scarier all the time.

  8. They already have laws on the books for self driving cars in California. Not that we need them yet. They're there for when it happens. As a paranoid driver, I'll happily give up my driving to the computers when the time comes.

  9. it is good if the owner is not that confident a driver herself, otherwise it's better not to opt for one.. if we devote all the activities to machines, we will just become big lazy lump of flesh.. . and yes, your questions too are of much concern...

  10. I would love to use self driving cars :-) But, being a software tester, I cannot trust technology that much and find faults in everything. So I cannot completely close my eyes and accept the technology

  11. Shortly before my Mom passed away at age 82, back in 2011, my siblings and I had discussed how to tell her we thought she needed to turn in her keys and not drive any more. It's tough because it removes that element of independence.

    Self-driving cars? Not sure how I would feel about them. Sounds a little scary!


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