Driverless Cars, Driving Me Crazy

There’s something seriously wrong with America. Many schools around the country have stopped teaching students how to write in longhand, and General Motors and Mercedes are on a quest to produce driverless cars. I guess in the future we will probably have citizens who are incapable of even signing their own name or driving a car.

I knew something was fishy when “parking assist” starting to be become an option, and I even joked in a recent column when I asked “What’s next, ‘drivers assist?’” What really bugs me is that I really like to drive. Let me clarify that. I really like to drive a car that’s well designed and handles well. I appreciate fine machinery. I hate traffic and love open highways as well as country lanes. I even like gear shifts, although some of the new state-of-the-art dual clutch automatic transmissions are impressive. I’m just an old-fashioned guy forced to live in a world where touch screens and iPhones have taken over.

In all honesty, the only moment I’ve ever wanted a driverless car was the few times I’ve been on seemingly endless road trips to, say Florida, down 95 through the endless south. Which got me to imagine that an electric wire broadcasting a radio signal, encased along every interstate highway in America, would be a great way to control a vehicle. Controlling the vehicle ONLY on an interstate. That would make sense because of the nature of the driving experience. Usually long, usually boring endless treks. Think of the safety factor of controlling all those large trucks and keeping them at the same speeds in the same lane. It would also be a leap forward in controlling truckers’ long hours on the road without sleep. They could even nap while their big rigs are in transit.

I’d give in to driverless cars on interstates only, where it makes a lot of sense, with the main benefit being safety. To have a driverless automobile that could operate everywhere is just silly…and dangerous. Just recently, a airplane crashed because the THREE pilots who happened to be in the cockpit thought the automatic throttle control was in the on position. And these were highly trained professionals. How good would grandma or your 16-year-old be with their cars that drive themselves? As bad as some drivers may be, I’d take a human being’s common sense and survival instinct over a machines on-off switch.

Also machines break. Space shuttles crash. How many times, as wonderful as it is, has your computer ticked you off with its shenanigans. You know what drives a driverless car? A computer. Make that probably 10 to 20 of them. Do you know what causes the most problems in every single car made today? The electronics. While we’re talking about all the electronic wizardry in automobiles, I forgot to mention the price tag. A car that gives you an electronic chauffeur has got to be expensive. In fact, it would probably be cheaper to just buy a regular car and hire a real live chauffeur to drive you around.

Another argument against the driverless car is the fact that it would be heavy, because hydraulic servos would have to be used to do all of the grunt work of driving, like stopping and turning the car. Add all the extra wiring, and electronics and you have a porky future car. Car weight seriously works against fuel economy.

So don’t get too excited about the car that drives itself. It isn’t that great an idea. I also wonder if cars are indeed produced that can drive themselves, what will happen to all the great car collections of the world? It would only be a matter of time before nobody would know how to drive those old crates.

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