Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I am just waiting for the time when cars can drive themselves. I am sure it’s coming down the pipe; Google says it already has driverless cars being tested on the roads now and have been, for some time, driving up and down the length of California on their own. To read Google’s own explanation, you immediately are disabused of the idea that these cars are totally empty. No, there is a person sitting in the driver’s seat ready to take control instantly should something go wrong, and there is a second person in the passenger’s seat, an engineer, who monitors the software operations on a computer. But as far as pedal pushers, neither are doing it.

Now these cars aren’t designed to be set loose on the road without people in them. They will be transportation vehicles for “we, the people” should we live long enough to need/want one. Again, listen to what Google says about its driverless car:

“The vehicle’s instant reaction time and 360-degree awareness would allow them to drive closer together on the highway than humans can, reducing traffic congestion. They could be more careful when operating the gas, reducing fuel consumptions. But the biggest benefit for Google would be the hour or so of daily commute time the car owner would save. Instead of driving, he or she could either be productive or entertained in the vehicle, doing work on a wireless internet connection or watching television.”

Right away I can see what kind of a change it would make in life. It would put Jerry back in the driver’s seat again. For some reason, Jerry seems able to relax when I am driving and he is navigating. But if we trade places, I become a nervous wreck. I will not go into detail as to why his driving causes me to thrash, fling my arms, stomp my right foot on a non-existent brake, duck, cringe and yell “mind the truck,” sounding like Hyacinth Bucket. With Jer in the driver’s seat, he would get his image back – that image being as man of the house.

Also it would be a wonderful idea for Jerry’s sister to have one of these driverless cars. She is a very small person, and no pillow in the driver’s seat seems to get her up high enough to see over the dashboard when she drives. From the back, her car looks for the world like it is driving itself. Judy doesn’t feel she is sitting too low, but both Judy and the world will be safer when she can sit wherever she chooses and leaves the driving to the car itself.

And for me, having one would mean first that I can read while I am “driving” in to Los Angeles. Think how many more books I could read! Furthermore, if it also can be programmed for night time driving, then I won’t have to stop driving at night because of my worsening night vision. I could tell the car to take me to Corona for my evening genealogy meeting and off we’d go.

I’ve been following another set of cars - vans, actually –on the internet that are making a long driverless run from Italy to China. It’s not quite for the same reason as Google is doing it. I’m not entirely sure what their reason for doing this is, but in reading about their exploits and adventures during this run one of the continuing problems they are battling is having the right paper documents to get them into and out of the various countries. Sometimes the vans have to stop and kill a day while a single van goes back for a missing government document that somehow didn’t get given to them at the right time. Struggling with paperwork in any country is truly one of the necessary evils of international travel, and you can’t really call this a drawback to driverless car driving in the wilds of eastern Europe and outer Mongolia.

Anyway, to be very honest with you I think that probably I will not live long enough to own a driverless car. They are talking a minimum of eight years away from market. And then there will be a lag time until the novelty wears off and the prices come down to what a person like me can afford. By that time Jer and I just may have to kiss off the idea of a driverless car and make our peace with lumbering around our Country Village senior complex in a golf cart like the other residents already do.


1 comment:

Olga said...

I had to chuckle at your description of being a passenger when Jerry is driving. I'm the same way, but Mike ALWAYS drives if we are together because he is a worse pasenger than I am.