In Soviet Russia, The Cars Drive You!

Apparently, in the very near future, they will here in the US too.

The most significant obstacles facing the vehicles could be human rather than technical: government regulation, liability laws, privacy concerns and people’s passion for the automobile and the control it gives them.Much of the technology already exists for vehicles to take the wheel: radar-based cruise control, motion sensors, lane-change warning devices, electronic stability control and satellite-based digital mapping. And automated vehicles could dramatically improve life on the road, reducing crashes and congestion.

If people are interested.

The tension between the desire for safety (see my previous rant) and the feeling of freedom that we all experienced at least once, the first time we got behind the wheel, is, um… interesting. I have never thought that people would settle for cars that drive them to work every day, if only because it feels more than a little out of control. Like flying. Airline pilots may be the best humanly possible, but many people are still uncomfortable flying because *they* have no control over the situation. And so it is with these driverless cars.

After today’s commute to work, between the idiot chugging along in a two lane country road five miles per below the speed limit, the two block long backup at each stop light, the school buses, the tailgaters etc., I’m now convinced that everyone else should have his/her driver’s license revoked anyway.

But seriously, consider this. Driverless systems would remove the need for red lights (all traffic would be automagically synchronized well in advance so stop lights and even stop signs would be unnecessary). The maximum traffic load of each road, measured in cars/minute would increase dramatically, and the commuting times would decrease just as dramatically. Automobile efficiency would rise, as would fuel efficiency (fossil fuel consumption would decline, of course), Traffic deaths would be rare – at least as rare as air-traffic fatalities.

I say “at least”, because the truth of the matter is that air-traffic control is and has been an antiquated system, very much in need of re-tooling. That’s going to happen much more slowly than changing to driverless commuting systems, if it happens at all, because the entire air-regulation industry lives by a simple dictum. “Change equals death.” For them, it’s true often enough that the dictum is not easily disregarded. A new system designed from the ground up to be safe would actually be much better than the system used by the FAA now.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Economics, Personal

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