Driverless Vehicles: The Nightmare Begins

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The news that Driverless Vehicles are to be road tested in the UK by the end of 2013 has caused a ton of excitement within the automotive world as admirers begin to drool over the endless possibilities confronting car manufacturers over the next 20 years. For me, however, it’s the first step on the road to a nightmare.

First let me qualify my position by saying that traditionally, I’m a huge supporter of any innovative technology that either broadens the mind, simplifies a lifestyle or helps people in need. However, in my humble opinion, the concept of completely Driverless Vehicles has a lot to prove . There’s no doubt that there is a strong case to be made for the technology simply from a safety aspect. Given the number of deaths and accidents from driver error across the globe, any improvement on those horrid statistics should be taken seriously but I think there’s more at stake than just improving the numbers.

Driverless Vehicles are in our midst already if you take a look at some of the available options on luxury cars from Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo and Infiniti that are currently in dealer showrooms. Parking Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Camera Sentinels, Traffic Jam Control and Smart Navigation Technology all establish an environment where the driver of the vehicle is almost an afterthought. Obviously, we’re still in the experimental stage of providing totally automatically controlled vehicles although Google Street View Vehicles have to some degree been driverless for some time.

There’s no doubt that there is a market for driverless vehicles. Particularly disabled drivers who find themselves trapped in their homes without help from others would benefit greatly from being able to step into a vehicle that would take them safely to their destination using nothing more than voice commands. That I get. However, my beef is a general one about society intruding into people’s daily lives more and more each day. The fact that your car is driverless means that in order to operate, it has to rely on a mountain of data that either is searchable or sellable to prying eyes. We have enough interference in our lives at the moment without having car manufacturers crawling all over our travel records.

My main disagreement derives from a need for us to control our own lives. Yes, we may be safer if we all had Driverless Vehicles that all travelled in sync with every other car on the road, and I’m sure eventually we’ll see that happen, but driving should be a pleasure as well as a way from getting from A to B. Many car manufacturers use the fact that driving is more of an enjoyment in their vehicles rather than those of their competition to sell cars. It’s a feature not a detriment. It’s about retaining individuality and the ability to decide what, where and how you travel.

If you want to live in world where George Jetson is your neighbor, then I guess the Driverless Vehicles are for you but if you’re like me and want to strap on that small ball of fire called a sports car and light up the tires pulling away from the house, then stand in line. We’ve got some work to do yet.

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