Autonomous vehicles are inevitable — and they will be here before you know it. As you may have heard, Google is working on autonomous vehicles. In fact, according to this New York Times article, some lucky (or daring, depending on how you see it) Google employees are already testing prototypes on their commute to work. Google’s version of the self-driving car will reportedly not have a steering wheel or manual brake; just a big (I’m guessing red) emergency stop button.
Did you know that Volvo has set a date of 2017 for their autonomous car? Tim Stevens at CNet has a great video of Volvo’s prototype sedan in which he actually takes a spin.
But I did say inevitable, didn’t I? I can think of a few reasons why. First of all, you’re a terrible driver. Yes, even you. You suffer from to fatigue and distractions that computers just aren’t subject to. According to Wikipedia, 34,080 people died behind the wheel in 2012. (The last year they have stats for.) That’s 10 deaths for every 100,000 people in the US.
Sure, at first, autonomous vehicles may not drive as well as a human. There may even be some horrible accidents caused because of a self-driving car. But in the main, they will be safer and more efficient. I know, you actually enjoy driving; you don’t want to give it up. Well, enjoy it while you can because eventually, self driving cars will be so good, that you won’t be allowed to drive. You won’t be able to afford the insurance.
While, I’m sure it’ll be a while before you lose your right to drive, autonomous vehicles offer up some really interesting and exciting opportunities. I remember when we took my Grandfather’s Buick away. If he had access to a self driving car, that wouldn’t have been an issue. Disabled people of many types will benefit from this technology.
Imagine not owning a car at all. Many of us couldn’t get along without a car of our own. But what if you just subscribed to a car service instead? Time to go to work? No problem, the car is already waiting for you in your driveway. It takes you to work, drops you off and then leaves to do the same for someone else. What if you decide to leave work early? You just summon a car with your phone and a different car arrives to take you anywhere you want to go. This is going to free up a lot of parking spaces. Google is reportedly already partnering with Uber (“A company that makes mobile application software that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services.”) to make this vision of the future a reality.
There are some downsides of course. According to Truckinfo.net, “The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., accounting for $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods transported by truck in the U.S. alone. Add $295 billion in truck trade with Canada and $195.6 billion in truck trade with Mexico.” Many of those truck drivers are going to lose their jobs eventually.
Personally, I’ve driven 4000+ miles in the past six months in the process of relocating from Florida to California. I would have loved to just sit back, relax and let the car do the driving.
Update: Ooops, I forgot to link to this video Google posted yesterday. Enjoy!