Getting Along Without a Google-Car Just Fine, Thanks

October 12, 2010

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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