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Getting Along Without a Google-Car Just Fine, Thanks


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Would you fall in love with a car that drives itself--or would it drive you and your family nuts?

On the one hand, who wouldn’t love to be able to sit back during a long commute, read a book, polish your nails, do some isometric exercises, or just stare out the window at lesser mortals not privileged to be in a car that drives itself? I mean, is that self-indulgent or what?

But let’s look at the real world of millions of all types of drivers on the road at any given time on California highways. I think I’d be even more hyper just trying to anticipate what might happen should my Google-tested self-driver suddenly fail to, well, drive.

For those who haven’t read about the Google test fleet, the self-driving cars have logged more than 140,000 miles in California, from Google’s Mountain View offices to Santa Monica, up and down Pacific Coast Highway, even around picturesque Lake Tahoe. All this, thanks to advanced robotics technology – and an onboard backup driver to constantly monitor software. This information comes via a press release on the Google corporate site released Oct. 9 at midnight.

Now I’m all for high technology – the more, the better – as long as it doesn’t cost me the equivalent of another mortgage or second-mortgage payment. And there may certainly come a time in my future when such cars will be in service in limited distribution on some highways or HOV lanes. I recall when there was a drive-by-wire experiment on a section of the 405 freeway that promised great things. Still waiting on that one. Anyway, there’s no doubt that with all the safety technology available today, especially in luxury cars, including pre-collision warning, driver drowsiness alert warning, side-blind assist, backup navigation and warning, lane departure warning, and on and one, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a real-world application of a vehicle that drives itself. And pretty intelligently.

For me, however, and for millions of other Americans, if I’m not oversimplifying it here, driving is so much more than mere transportation from home to office to school or from this geographic location to that. It’s one reason many of us are so particular about the type of vehicle we drive. It has to have enough power to satisfy us, get fairly decent fuel economy and pollute the environment less, offer style and comfort and convenience and a smidge of extras here and there.

Some of us just like – make that love – to drive, myself included.

So, I agree with folks who say, “Hold on there just a minute. Not ready yet for an automacar.”

No robot cars for me either. At this juncture, I’m just fine without a Googling-mobile. Unless, that is, they’re going to come out with the Jetsons-type flying machine. Now that, I might be interested in…

[Associated Press, Google]

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Comments (9)
  1. I understand your love of driving, feeling the acceleration, testing your skills and hand-eye coordination, etc. And there's no reason to give that up on every drive. Sometimes, you want a fun car to drive simply because you *have* to drive. For those times, a self-driving car would be perfect.
    Growing up, I was a passenger in seven automobile accidents. Most of those cases were classic "pilot error": looking down to tune the radio, going 70 around a blind 25mph curve, distracted while looking for a parking space, passing when it wasn't safe, merging onto a free from a stop but failing to notice the car in front aborted its entry, etc. All of these could have been avoided with a self-driving car.
    As to cost, many of the mechanics needed (fly-by-wire, cameras, proximity lasers) are already present on today's cars. Sure, not all of them, but these features are becoming more commonplace. Imagine also the savings on insurance that could be gained to offset this additional cost. And then there's the human lives that you can't really put a price on (but of course the insurance industry does).
     
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  2. I love it if everyone else got a Google car. The ratio of lousy drivers out there is well north of 90%. Most of the time it's cell phones, I see idiots not paying attention to where they are going and they invariably have one in their left hand. We can't solve the cell phone menace through enforcement. It's been shown people text with the phone on their lap to avoid getting caught. This draws eyes further from the road. I'm afraid our other technology is making the Google car a necessity.
     
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  3. Hello, there, David and Tom - great posts, and I'm in total agreement with both. Regular readers of my articles in Family Car Guide (and posts to other articles in High Gear Media publications) know my peeves about people texting and driving. I also want all the safety technology I can get in a car. So, maybe I would be a good candidate for a drive-it-by-itself car. I'm willing to give it a try, when the time comes... But I still want my other daily driver. I'm one who never uses a cell phone or text while driving (come to think of it, I've never texted in my life and have no intentions of doing so). Anyway, thanks for the comments.
     
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  4. I'm hoping that the autonomous cars come to dominate the urban sprawl and the joy of driving a car will be had out on twisty country roads. The way the autonomous car will affect the car will be like the way the car liberated the horse from being worked as daily transport. Maybe road courses similar to the Nurburgring will spring up and we'll get to enjoy our roadsters free from cops and cross traffic (And the only people driving will be taking their responsibility seriously).
     
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  5. it is not because technology can do it, that there is intelligence in it (neither business opportunities...).
     
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  6. it is important to give back responsibility to people, in order to feel the limit between good and bad behaviors. The success of Google search "engine" came from offering tools to people to develop themselves with complete freedom. What could be a Free Car? Certainly not an ever again overweight techno-transformer stuff... whenever, I couldn't afford one.
     
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  7. Zissou - you make some interesting points. I hadn't thought about the extra weight that some of the technology might apply to the existing vehicle. At the very least, there could be some innovative new designed vehicles to accommodate the, shall we call it, "intelligent self-drive" car.
     
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  8. Although I think the idea of an autonomous car is a great one, much work would still need to be done. Acceptance of such a car would take years, considering if you're like me, then you want have control behind the wheel.
     
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  9. it is not because technology can do it, that there is intelligence in it
     
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