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Where Will All The Drivers Go?

The autobot is here.  Science fiction movie self driving cars (think Herbie and the Transformers) in the form of so-called driverless cars are already traveling the highways of America, on their own.   The Google car is one example – not so much driverless car as  it is a self-driven car or an automobile robot with a passenger, just in case – autobot anyone?   The New York Times published an article describing a problem that we, the human drivers, caused by our less than perfect attention to safety rules.  “Dmitri Dolgov, head of software for Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, said that one thing he had learned from the project was that human drivers needed to be “less idiotic.”

At some point, we will all need to learn how to coexist with the driverless cars or we will lose our right to drive.  Why?  A driverless car has no case of road rage, for one reason.

A few others:

  • no cutting in short
  • no tailgating
  • no speeds unsafe for conditions
  • no weaving in and out
  • texting or taking calls
  • and, of course, all signs and speed limits obeyed.

When the final highway safety program is achieved for self driving cars and the emotional and sometimes impaired humans are banished from our roadways, what will passionate drivers do to get their driving fix?  I suppose there will be private tracks and roads to play on.  For some, video simulations might be enough.  But, I suspect, many people will mourn the loss of giving up the freedom of driving to the auto driving car.  Driving a car brings a feeling of freedom and a major adrenaline boost to many Americans.   We experience a sense of autonomy, largely missing in our occupations, and the thrill of dominating a powerful entity.  Where else but on the highway or busy rural streets can we experience something akin to racing across the prairie in a posse or riding next to a herd of cattle?  Driving is the only non-spectator sport that most Americans pursue.  Being a passenger in a self driving car just doesn’t give the same thrill.


At New York Automotive & Diesel Institute in Queens, NY, our automotive technology students are, first and foremost, fans of cars and driving.  It is not too much to say that they love cars.  They are enthusiastically studying the technology of electric and hybrid cars as well as traditional combustion engines.  They are fascinated by the hydrogen engine.  Eventually, they will learn the ins and outs of the driverless car and self-driving car technology. It seems a sorry thing to deprive the mechanics of tomorrow the thrill of driving the machines they repair and maintain.

In imagining this future of completely safe (but boring) highway transportation, I have a few suggestions.  Will I be able to send my car to the store with a list?  Can I have it pick up my child from daycare?  Or my mother from the doctor’s.  Will it make me sit in the back?  Am I allowed to be a backseat driver?  If it can’t find a parking spot will it keep slowly circling the block while I shop?  Can I call it Jeeves?