Have you ever been behind someone proceeding too slowly, who doesn’t know where he or she is going or when it’s acceptable to turn right at a red light? You think to yourself; if I only had my full-spectrum discombobulator ray gun – I’d zap that sucker into the 19th dimension!
I’m beginning to think driverless cars are a great idea. How do rich people get around? They get chauffeurs! Let’s examine the possibilities.
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15 good things coming
A fully autonomous world would have no need for stop signs, traffic lights, speed bumps or auto insurance. There would be no more stopping at a red octagonal sign just because it’s the law – when clearly, there is no one else around. Traffic weaving at intersections would merge – replacing stopping and waiting with slowing and going.
Travel times would be shortened by a system comprising one (computer) mind, rather than thousands of distracted, disoriented, hurried and limited human brains. Decreased fuel consumption would ease global warming, and accidents would virtually disappear. Over 38,000 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, with more than 4 million injured. Tickets and DUIs would be a thing of the past.
Journeys programmed through artificial intelligence would move efficiently. Airline travel presently transports millions of people daily on autopilot. The pilot remains for takeoff, landing and emergencies. GPS itself was created for jet fighters autonomously touching down on pitching aircraft carriers under fire at night. Moving in two dimensions is far simpler.
Former drivers – now passengers, could read, work on laptops, converse with others or sleep – stress-free. No more driving the kids to school, soccer games, the mall, or parents to doctor’s appointments.
A destination programmed via phone or tablet would suffice. Personal vehicle ownership could be reduced via a public taxi system freeing up roadways and parking space. Driverless deliveries would be commonplace.
Eight bad things coming
Individual freedom. Macho notions of control would have to be stuffed in the trunk. Also, some may not appreciate Big Brother surveilling every move or destination – although this currently exists with smartphones.
Governmental entities which rely on traffic fines would require alternate revenue; as would auto insurance companies, body shop workers and truck and courier drivers. Hacking may be a concern, and off-road driving would require a human interface or exact coordinates.
Obviously, the above scenario presumes fully autonomous synchronization requiring decades to implement. An integrated system involving both autonomous and human-driven cars is likely in the foreseeable future. We have some versions of electronic control now – yet not operating at peak efficiency.
I remember a so-called smart traffic light in the Bay Area at a T intersection of a 45 mph, four-lane boulevard on a steep hill – and an adjoining residential street. Every car approaching the boulevard on the residential street would trip the light stopping fast-moving vehicles in all four lanes.
This occurred even though most often the approaching vehicle would turn right, not requiring a signal light. Since it was a T intersection – a complete crossing was not possible. As you might have guessed, I was the driver traveling regularly up and down the fast boulevard to the college on top of the hill stopping repeatedly – for nothing.
Also, how many times have you sat at a red light at an empty intersection? Or been stuck behind a single car at a light preventing your right turn while the left lane is clear at a four-lane intersection?
How about waiting for a little green arrow to tell you when to turn left, while left-turn lights are nonexistent at many intersections. Tired of positioning yourself to go straight if the light stays green, or turn right if it changes to red? These frustrations would be history in a fully autonomous transportation system.
Beyond our imaginations
I’m sure I haven’t envisioned all possibilities – either on the plus or minus side – of a world of fully autonomous automobiles. Much needs to be worked out with integrated sensors, radar, bandwidth, governments, pedestrians/bikes/skateboarders, special circumstances, and the roads and vehicles themselves. Not to mention drivers’ attitudes and concerns.
I guess, for now, I’ll just have to keep my full-spectrum discombobulator ray gun handy.
Rich Lagomarsino is a local businessman and author. He is a graduate of multiple drivers training programs including Chronic Violators School in San Jose CA. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org