Friday, October 17, 2014

Brave New World

I've ranted about self-driving cars before, and so will here just paraphrase some expert I happened to see on C-SPAN:

"As best I can forecast, dual-control cars [computer-operated but human over-rideable] will be on roads by 2020.  Computer-controlled cars that drivers cannot over-ride will be on roads by 2030.  By 2040, human-driven cars will be banned from certain roads because they are too dangerous."

He was not lamenting the passing of "driver-driven" cars.  Nobody on the panel was.  From what I could tell (channel-surfing to and away from the broadcast), the panel was composed of computer tech/"smart grid" experts, transportation safety experts (including air and rail), and insurance industry people.  Google and several car companies have already invested heavily in driverless car technology, and I believe that California and a couple of other states have now granted waivers for "beta" testing on designated public roads.

The prevailing hypothesis on the expert panel seemed to be "How and when can we make highways operate like the air traffic control system?"  The main barrier to computer-controlled cars appears to be electronic infrastructure that supports "smart highways."  The prevailing opinion seemed to be "Why wouldn't you want to use your time more productively and safely than in actually driving a car?"

And maybe computer-controlled cars do make more sense in a wired world.  At best, the number of Americans who care about cars and driving skillfully is 10% of the population.  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, can go fish.  Figuratively if not literally.

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