I'm starting a new series here on self-driving cars, or if you prefer, autonomous automobiles (or robo-cars - what do you think they should be called?)

I've had many people tell me that they just were not interesting in a car that drives itself. What fun would that be?

My answer is quite a lot! From a selfish perspective, I live in Texas. This means I drive a lot on long highways, especially since my relatives are some distance away, and my children are in college out of town. I also spent two years commuting once a week 200 miles away, and a year commuting 120 miles a day (60 to and from work). That is a lot of time in a car. I would much rather be reading, sleeping, playing a game, or composing my blog that driving my car on these long trips. How would you like to push the 'autopilot' button on your dash and fold your seat back and let the car take you the next few hours on the superhighway?

That's my reason, but there are lots of others. The most pointed one is the simple fact that each year over 27,000 people are killed on US highways. Every year. A greater number of people are injured or maimed, resulting in long-term hospital care. Annual drain on the US economy is in the billions. Now imagine a car that will not crash. It won't fall asleep, won't run red lights, and can't drive drunk. What is that worth?

Speaking of which, the widespread use of autonomous automobiles could eliminate drunk driving as a hazard, a crime, or a problem. If your too soused to drive, the car takes you home. You don't even have to remember where home is.

Another point is that self-driving cars could eliminate driver's licenses, age limits, and handicaps. Are you blind? The car can drive. Too old? No longer a problem. Too young? the car drives itself, is a license required? As we are all going to get old and infirm some day, the allure of keeping your personal transportation, safely, is tempting.

Now how about saving the environment. Every day your car sits in a parking lot, doing nothing. I drive to work and park my car. My wife goes in the opposite direction and does the same. If we had a self driving car, it could take me to work, then return home and pick up my wife, and take her to work. Then it could return home and wait for us to get off. No parking lot issues at work, and the whole family only needs one car.

Rental cars would also take in a whole new meaning. In the anime "Ex-Driver", the animators explore a world of autonomous cars. You need a car, you call on your cell phone to a rental agency. Minutes later a car shows up (following the GPS in your phone) by itself and picks you up. You type in where you want to go and sit back. When the car gets to your destination, it waits for the next call in the area and drives itself to get someone else. Seeing a movie? Make a reservation for the right time and the car is there waiting for you when you get out. No parking.

So that's just a start. In later posts, we can talk about how this can come about, what the roadmap is to the fully self-driving car, and how changes to the infrastructure, cars, and drivers can be brought about smoothly and incrementally.

For more information, I'm a member of the IVTT (Intelligent Vehicle Technology Transfer) organization. See their website for more information.

1 comment:

  1. i think that self driving cars would be a great investment for everyone because some people dont even get to live there lives because of people driving the way they want to drive i just think it would be great....


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