Driverless Cars

Nevada has taken a big step toward allowing driverless cars; they’ve authorized their DOT to start forming rules and regulations for the use of driverless cars.

I picked this up via Ben Brooks who raises a very salient point:

No matter how advanced sometimes you just can’t beat the human eye. Because the first time a ‘driverless’ car kills a kid in an accident that a human could have avoided — well that’s the end of the dream.

A real concern that every right-thinking person should have. I think the problem is that most people view the issue of driverless cars as an either/or situation. Either we all driver our cars everywhere, or we all have driverless cars take us everywhere. I think the reality would be a hybrid.

Imagine jumping in line on an onramp, pushing a button, and allowing the car to take over as it whisks you along safely on a grade-separated right of way amidst hundreds of other cars running driverless. All these cars could have their own onboard computer that would transmit simple information to each other to promote smooth flowing, high speed, safe traffic.

Now imagine, as your car takes you to your highway exit, an alert sounds letting you know you need to take over again. Once on the slower, mixed-use boulevards shared with cyclists and pedestrians, you have to do the work. You are still responsible to keep your eye out for the kiddo chasing their ball into the street.

Many folks are pushing for elimination of cars or at least a significant reduction in cars. Many of these same folks see a future of mass-adoption of mass transit. I just don’t see that happening quite the way some imagine. I think cars will long be an important part of our transportation infrastructure. With as much money as we’ve built into that infrastructure we’d be awfully wasteful to try and abandon that or replace it. Rather we should aim for making the automobiles themselves more efficient. We should also aim for more efficient use of the existing infrastructure.