Driverless Cars Are Happening, Even If Some in Washington Don’t Get It

 

In a chat not long ago with me, an influential GOP member of Congress pooh-poohed self-driving cars based on the idea that people wouldn’t be interested in the technology. Voters like their pickup trucks! Apparently this politician didn’t know any parents with teenagers getting ready to get behind the wheel. Certainly some polls show consumer concern.

But I recall someone who rode in a driverless car with great initial apprehension, which later turned to boredom since the car drove like it had downloaded the brain of a driver’s ed instructor. Actually I think the phrase “grandmotherly” may have been used.

To the above point, some relevant analysis from Ben Evans:

Electric and autonomous cars are just beginning – electric is happening now but will take time to grow, and autonomy is 5-10 years away from the first real launches. As they happen, each of these destabilises the car industry, changing what it means to make or own a car, and what it means to drive. Gasoline is half of global oil demand and car accidents kill 1.25m people year, and each of those could go away. But as I explored here, that’s just the start: if autonomy ends accidents, removes parking and transforms what congestion looks like, then we should try to imagine changes to cities on the same scale as those that came with cars themselves. How do cities change if some or all of their parking space is now available for new needs, or dumped on the market, or moved to completely different places? Where are you willing to live if ‘access to public transport’ is ‘anywhere’ and there are no traffic jams on your commute? How willing are people to go from their home in a suburb to dinner or a bar in a city centre on a dark cold wet night if they don’t have to park and an on-demand ride is the cost of a coffee? And how does law enforcement change when every passing car is watching everything?

Anyway, this great Axios chart gives a feel for just how seriously global companies are taking the technology, as well as the many complex linkages between them.

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  1. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The pro-driverless-cars people are always pushing the Best Case Future Scenario. It would do them well to consider a Worst Case Future Scenario also.

    Take a look at the wreckage of our once-great healthcare system after the government (with the approval of rent-seeking corporations) got done screwing with it. Remember: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor? If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your insurance plan?”

    Now turn that same ham-fisted government loose on our transportation system.

    Not a pretty picture, is it.

    Where are you willing to live if ‘access to public transport’ is ‘anywhere’ and there are no traffic jams on your commute? How willing are people to go from their home in a suburb to dinner or a bar in a city centre on a dark cold wet night if they don’t have to park and an on-demand ride is the cost of a coffee?

    This is complete fantasy.

    I’m reminded of that famous line attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    In a entirely plausible future where every aspect of transportation is managed from Central Planning, driverless cars will take you where the governing authorities allow you to go. And only where the governing authorities allow you to go.

    I am not interested in relinquishing my right to travel freely.

    • #1
  2. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    I am just looking forward to napping while my auto car negotiates the freeway on my commute to work.

    • #2
  3. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    What if I like to drive?   And I do.    What if I am deeply suspicious of the fact that the car will know where I go, when & with whom.    I can envision all of these happening….

    Try to go somewhere relatively close?

    “I’m sorry.    That trip is within walking distance.    The Surgeon General advocates at least 10,000 steps per day. If you are handicapped, please enter a handicapped placard number now or press One to get walking directions.”

    Want  to go to a Trump rally?

    “I’m sorry.    There are already 4,500 requests for that destination.   The Fire Marshall indicates that the maximum occupancy for that venue is 4500 people.     In the interest of public safety, I cannot accept that as a destination at this time.”

    Going to a polling place in a tight election?    “I’m sorry Mr/Ms registered Republican (or any financial contributor to a Republican candidate).  your estimated time of arrival is 8:12PM.    That polling place closes at 8:00 PM”

    Going for pizza?    Maybe to the liquor store or tobacco shop?     “I’m sorry.    As an Obamacare enrollee it is in the public interest that you avoid smoking/drinking/fatty foods.   Press One for vegan options.    Press Two to go to the gym.    Press Three to receive free nicotine patches in the mail.”

    • #3
  4. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Now turn that same ham-fisted government loose on our transportation system.

    Like it already isn’t?

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I am not interested in relinquishing my right to travel freely.

    Look on the bright side: as more people move to these types of transport it’ll ease the burden on everyone else.

    • #4
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I’m willing to make a substantial wager (4 figures) that truly autonomous driverless cars will not be ubiquitous (> 50% of the vehicles on the road in the United States) in my lifetime.  I’m 55 years old.

    I’m willing to make a somewhat smaller wager that they will not be useful in Northern climates [edit:  year round – snow plays havoc with the ability to see roads and obstacles] in my children’s lifetime.

     

     

     

    • #5
  6. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    From the book, “How to Serve Humans”.

    • #6
  7. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Now turn that same ham-fisted government loose on our transportation system.

    Like it already isn’t?

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I am not interested in relinquishing my right to travel freely.

    Look on the bright side: as more people move to these types of transport it’ll ease the burden on everyone else.

    See #3 for a list of not that far-fetched reasons why the government managing or toying with personal transit is a really bad idea.

    • #7
  8. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKS
    @user_54742

    It seems to me that there are just so many variables when driving (ie: snow, ice, pop up construction, pot holes, left turns against heavy traffic with no arrow, deep puddles due to clogged sewers, driving behind or near really poor drivers(ie: aggressive, DUI?), Chicago rush hour traffic, etc.) that the self driving car reaction will be the most absurdly safe and insanely aggravating result that I see myself cursing out the world as I’m stuck  in the corner of a real life bumper car ride.

    • #8
  9. DeanSMS Member
    DeanSMS
    @

    While Driverless-cars would be boring, I have many passengers who will be quite happy I am not driving.

     

    • #9
  10. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    DeanSMS (View Comment):
    While Driverless-cars would be boring, I have many passengers who will be quite happy I am not driving.

    Who gets primary rights to set the music? It will be anarchy.

    • #10
  11. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    I think that the issue will not be one of technology; rather it will be a question of liability. Although autonomous cars can be expected to be generally safer, they can never be perfect. (No machine ever is.) When the inevitable accident occurs, who will be held legally liable: The manufacturer of the autonomous car that failed? The software company that designed the code? The satellite company that operates the GPS system the vehicle relies utilizes? The local government responsible for certifying the safety of the autonomous vehicle? The operator of the vehicle (either a third-party vendor or the private owner)?

    Even the simplest of traffic accidents may result in years of litigation. Unless this is question is settled before the first public implementation, the experiment won’t last very long.

    • #11
  12. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Now turn that same ham-fisted government loose on our transportation system.

    Like it already isn’t?

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I am not interested in relinquishing my right to travel freely.

    Look on the bright side: as more people move to these types of transport it’ll ease the burden on everyone else.

    See #3 for a list of not that far-fetched reasons why the government managing or toying with personal transit is a really bad idea.

    I’m not denying that driverless cars would open up whole new worlds for government to screw things up but I am saying that our current transportation system isn’t entirely free of government interference.

    • #12
  13. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    Would not this soon turn into a feature of public transportation? I would anticipate that with fewer people driving their car, fewer would be inclined to own a car. Without the requisite knowledge and experience required to drive, more non-drivers may see an opportunity to forge a “right  to point-to-point transportation” available to the rich. Cars will become more utilitarian in styling to match the utilitarian role of cars.

    • #13
  14. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):
    I’m not denying that driverless cars would open up whole new worlds for government to screw things up but I am saying that our current transportation system isn’t entirely free of government interference.

    No it isn’t.    But the autonomous Vehicle route is wide open and begging for widespread government interference.    Imagine the same guys and gals from the EPA, IRS, your insurance company and the NSA getting tasked with developing the driverless car rules and regulations!

    • #14
  15. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Now turn that same ham-fisted government loose on our transportation system.

    Like it already isn’t?

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I am not interested in relinquishing my right to travel freely.

    Look on the bright side: as more people move to these types of transport it’ll ease the burden on everyone else.

    See #3 for a list of not that far-fetched reasons why the government managing or toying with personal transit is a really bad idea.

    I’m not denying that driverless cars would open up whole new worlds for government to screw things up but I am saying that our current transportation system isn’t entirely free of government interference.

    True.  But I’ve still got the steering wheel, gas, and brakes. ?

    • #15
  16. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    If it needs Washington to “get it”, I guess it’s not bursting through the doors.  These things happen, if they happen sensibly, on their own.  Some cities may have to create some special lanes but Washington?  What they need to get is out of the way, always.

    • #16
  17. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    If I were of a  leftist minded ilk, I would relish the opportunity of autonomous cars. What better way to control the behavior I most despise: the public’s use of fossil fuel whenever, wherever they want? How hard would it be to design a universal kill switch to be emlployed when Air/atmospheric quality reaches a trigger point of my design? Public good and all.  I could think of a half dozen ways to advantage bicycles over cars. 

    • #17
  18. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    “I see the destination you have entered is the office of an Obstetrician.    Did you know the Census Department estimates it costs $400,000 to raise a child to age 18.    Abortion is a Constitutionally protected right.    There is a Planned Parenthood location 20 minutes away.    Press One to exercise your right to choose and go to planned parenthood.     Press Two to continue to your original destination.”

    • #18
  19. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    “I’m sorry.  The destination you have entered sells firearms.   I cannot take you there at this time.    For more information press One.”

    [ 1 ]

    “Your name or a name similar to yours appears on the FBI’s Convicted Felon and Terrorist Watch List.    If you have an FBI issued Weapon And Ammunition Waiver Number press One to enter the 26 digit number.    If you would like to apply for a Weapon And Ammunition Waiver Number press Two.   Press Three to cancel this trip. “

    • #19
  20. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw:

    I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandpa.
    Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

    Seawriter

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):
    I’m not denying that driverless cars would open up whole new worlds for government to screw things up but I am saying that our current transportation system isn’t entirely free of government interference.

    No it isn’t. But the autonomous Vehicle route is wide open and begging for widespread government interference. Imagine the same guys and gals from the EPA, IRS, your insurance company and the NSA getting tasked with developing the driverless car rules and regulations!

    That should fuel enough nightmares to last until 2020.

    • #21
  22. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    God bless American Muscle and the internal combustion engine.  Whatever the future,  I have felt the past roar and shake the frame, tires gripping in beautiful physics.   I will live where those robot cars aren’t.

    • #22
  23. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw:

    I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandpa.
    Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

    Seawriter

    I remember when we had to take the keys away from Dad. With a driverless car my wife and I would remain mobile well beyond our ability to drive ourselves. Just the thought of that is somewhat liberating.

    • #23
  24. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    driverless cars will take you where the governing authorities allow you to go. And only where the governing authorities allow you to go.

    You shouldn’t have written that on the Internet. They know now.

    THEY KNOW!

    • #24
  25. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Cities have already threatened that they will not allow cars with actual drivers to enter city limits in the future.  I think a future with driverless cars is frightening, not just because I don’t trust robots (I do, often) but because this is a central planner’s dream come true and a nightmare for individualism.

    On top of my concerns for the loss of my autonomy as we grant it to robots, I think having all cars following the logic of one or two computer programmers is a recipe for disaster.  This is the type of system that will work perfectly until some hidden flaw pops up and hundreds die simultaneously.

    There is a time and place for automated cars.  When it’s my car, it’s the wrong time and place.

    • #25
  26. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    It’s incredible that so many people are so whacked out by this. Millions of people take Uber, Lyft, taxis, buses, subways, trains, limos, etc every day. All of that will swap to self owning driverless cars almost overnight.

    All of those ugly rail lines, all of those awful buses, all gone. Traffic will be a thing of the past. You’ll get everywhere quicker. All of the money you spend on vehicles presently will be back in your pocket. With less traffic we need fewer roads. Saving millions.

    And what about trucking? Goods can move all night long. Nonstop. That’ll go driverless ownerless too. The price of goods will fall.

    This is bigger than the wild freedom rush of wiggling your right foot up and down a quarter inch. This is freedom and wealth beyond your wildest current dreams.

    • #26
  27. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    I think that the issue will not be one of technology; rather it will be a question of liability. Although autonomous cars can be expected to be generally safer, they can never be perfect. (No machine ever is.) When the inevitable accident occurs, who will be held legally liable: The manufacturer of the autonomous car that failed? The software company that designed the code? The satellite company that operates the GPS system the vehicle relies utilizes? The local government responsible for certifying the safety of the autonomous vehicle? The operator of the vehicle (either a third-party vendor or the private owner)?

    Even the simplest of traffic accidents may result in years of litigation. Unless this is question is settled before the first public implementation, the experiment won’t last very long.

    The pockets to plunder will be a lot deeper.  For this reason, the government will find a way to shield their liability.

    • #27
  28. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    If driver less cars are going to be common, in say 5 years ish? How soon will it be before there are cook less kitchens? Or baker less bakeries?

    If you’re drunk in a driver less car, and the car is driving you home, is it still a DUI? or if only underage kids are in the car, is that child endangerment?

    • #28
  29. NigelT Member
    NigelT
    @NigelT

    Can’t wait to get my new autonomous Porsche 911.

    • #29
  30. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Casey (View Comment):
    This is bigger than the wild freedom rush of wiggling your right foot up and down a quarter inch. This is freedom and wealth beyond your wildest current dreams.

    We won’t only lose that.  We will also lose the freedom to go where we want, from protesting at city hall, to driving over the curb to offload furniture.

    • #30

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