Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Enjoy your right to drive a car

Google has been successful in designing cars that drive themselves. I've believed for years that it is a matter of time before the average person can no longer legally drive. Here is how I foresee the chain of events:

1. Automated cars come on the market

2. Automated cars demonstrate vastly superior safety record and reduced accidents.

3. Insurance companies will think to themselves, "why should we insure a manual driver when we know automated cars have a near-perfect driving record?" Insurance costs will skyrocket for manual drivers.

4. At some point there will be a lawsuit involving a manual driver who errs and kills passengers in an automated car. Manual driver will be sued and lose the case. At that point, there will be legal precedent for suing every person who drives manually and makes a mistake.

5. Manual driving is made illegal by new legislation, or becomes de facto prohibited secondary to high costs and vulnerability in court.

Think about it this way: we used to let people drive and drink alcohol, right? At some point we recognized that driving under the influence of alcohol is significantly more dangerous than driving sober. Therefore, driving under the influence is illegal. Nobody will insure you if you drive drunk. You can go to jail if you drive drunk. What happens when we find that driving manual is significantly more dangerous than letting the computer drive? Probably the same thing.

I look forward to this inevitable outcome, and you should too. There are tons of advantages to a fleet of automated cars:

-Smoother traffic. Computer models have shown that traffic jams are due to sub-optimal spacing between cars that cause slight fluctuations in speed; these fluctuations ripple backward through traffic and amplify. Automated cars would never have this problem.

-Less traffic in cities. At any given time, a large percentage of traffic in a congested area is represented by drivers who are circling and looking for a parking spot. The computers of automated cars could automatically located the closest empty spot and drive straight to it, reducing the overall traffic load. Alternatively, the car could drop the passenger off at the destination and then drive to a nearby lot to wait until the passenger needs pick-up.

-No need to stop at red lights. Automated cars could perfectly time passage such that we travel through intersections seamlessly from all ways without slowing down. This might be a little harrowing at first, I'll admit.

-Faster average driving speeds, since the automated driver won't make mistakes.

-More relaxed travel. Instead of fighting traffic and dealing with road raging psychos, we could catch up on our reading, watch movies, or nap.

-Tens of thousands of people won't die in auto accidents every year.

I will finish this with a funny college humor article: what if Google released Skynet?. FYI, "Skynet" is the sentient artificial intelligence in the Terminator movies that attempts to destroy humanity.

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