Personal opinion on self-driving cars is largely irrelevant

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Google released a video the other day showing some of the advances they've made in city driving, including the ability to recognize the hand signals made by bicycle drivers. City driving is much harder for a machine than cruising down the highway (pylons apparently are quite tough to fully comprehend), but resolving this is only a matter of time.

The update has led to a surge of articles about the advancement and the future of self-driving cars. One page here from the Guardian has a poll- that interestingly shows 64% of respondents saying they are comfortable driving in a self-driving car. I had expected something higher but I suppose I tend to frequent more sites that are for them.

In the end though, personal opinion will be irrelevant. During the transition phase (let's say mid-2020s to be safe) where we will start to see more and more self-driving cars on the road, driving one's own car will probably begin to be seen as a selfish act, one that tangles up traffic and has the potential to maim or kill, for no real benefit.

City planners will very likely begin to ban human drivers on certain congested roads, because a three-lane road with human drivers and the extra space they need could potentially become a four-lane road with self-driven cars keeping perfect spacing from each other. No real reason to allow a human driver in such a situation. The same will likely take place in the construction of new roads as well. Why not make the road narrower, ban human drivers from the road, and use the extra money and land for something else?

One big potential downside to these cars is more sprawling cities. If one is now able to sleep in the car, why not live an hour outside of town instead of 30 minutes, get a bigger house and nap on the way in to work and back? On the other hand I suppose such a commute into work will no longer be a stress-filled endeavour, simply a bit stuffy. More cars will have seats that convert into full beds, those long-haul commuters will come into the office a bit rumpled and will use the shower before going to their desk, taxis of course will be a thing of the past, children and the elderly will 'drive' cars on their own, and so on. The next decade is going to be very interesting, and the change it brings may even be comparable to that of the internet itself.


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