Monday, October 1, 2012

Google's harbinger of driving doom

Google recently announced with some fanfare that their self-driving cars have covered more than 300,000 accident-free miles, and that "With each breakthrough we feel more optimistic about delivering this technology to people and dramatically improving their driving experience."
Counter argument: I don't want my driving experience to be "improved" by not having to drive my own car. Also, for the record, since I first drove a car in 1991, I've covered probably the same number of miles (if not more) also without a single accident or insurance claim.
It would seem to me that companies like Google are pouring billions of dollars into research simply to alleviate drivers from the responsibility of their actions. I know I've blogged about this before but I really, truly, honestly cannot imagine a worse future for car owners than cars that drive themselves. I don't know why we need them and I don't know why anyone would want them. However I'm equally sure they'll be forced upon us by misguided insurance companies who will start to penalise drivers for NOT having auto-drive cars. This is the ultimate example of attempting to cure the symptoms of a problem rather than the problem itself. Better driving education, more stringent driving tests and annual re-tests are all it would take to get a reduction in accidents. On top of that, fines for using cellphones in cars would have to be proper punishment. Not $50 here or there, but something more permanent like having your car impounded and crushed.
Here's a thought for you: auto-drive cars will have to have manual overrides. Computer technology is not infallible so the human will always have to be in the loop, same as with aircraft. So what happens when the next generation of drivers, equipped with less training, who are wholly reliant on their cars driving themselves, suddenly have to take control? Would you want to be on the road when that happens? I wouldn't.
One thing's for sure though - self-driving motorbikes won't ever happen so if self-driving cars become the norm, I'll just abandon them in favour of motorcycling. It's more fun anyway and the bike never meddles with what I'm doing. Actually, that does bring about an interesting point: will self-driving cars be able to see motorcyclists better than humans? They certainly couldn't be any worse, given that car drivers cause over 90% of motorcycle accidents. Maybe I do want self-driving cars after all.....
Google's press release: Self-driving cars log 300,000 miles