This is the year 2012. The year of dreams turn reality. Driverless cars are with us thanks to Google and other manufacturers like Audi, Volvo, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes, and General Motors. But first, let me tell you a story.
I was behind the wheels driving my daddy’s old Tanus car back in the ’60s when a car overtook me, leveled up with me briefly, then sped past. Nothing wrong with this scenario except that I was just about 10 years old, the car that just passed me had no driver behind the wheels, and I was in a dream. Needless to say, I woke up shivering, covered in sweats, and extremely afraid. I had seen a GHOST CAR. That was my thought. Since then I had had series of dreams of like nature and have pondered on the idea of a driverless car.
As i mentioned above, this is year 2012 and i am now an adult. The year of dreams turn reality. Just last week, the governor of California State in the U.S. rode in one of such cars to Google office where he signed into law the bill allowing driverless cars operate on California roads. Governor Jerry Brown said: “Today, we’re looking at science-fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality”. He went on to say what is on the mind of many people “Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car driving will be a little skittish” but he was quick to add that the person will get over it. More on this bill signing ceremony on BBC Technology News.
Google has been testing and perfecting a fleet of autonomous computer controlled vehicles for several years and are confident that the cars will eventually replace human driven vehicles in the near future. Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin says these cars will be far safer than human driven cars. He further states that self driving cars would dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone.
It is a known fact that human errors are responsible for up to 90% of all vehicle accidents. So it is logical to assume that removing humans from equation will usher in better and safer driving. Google has logged over 300,000 miles with its fleet of driverless vehicles with no accident except one case during which one of the vehicles was on manual drive.
A YouTube video of working prototype of such cars can be viewed here
Technical aspects aside, there are many factors that go into driving. There is the legal and legislative concern, there is the economic concern, the safety issues, and of course, the human psychology and trade unionism.
The Californian legislative model provides that a human must always be in the vehicle to take manual control and make decisions as needed. But is this really necessary? Is this not a reflection of our inability to completely trust automation? An innate need to always want to be in control? Or a fear of domination by computers?
What would the Drivers Union or Association feel about this? A threat to their livelihood?
How about the professional Race Drivers? The formula One Race. Will computer driven cars be allowed to compete?
Will you as a parent allow autonomous computer controlled cars to do your school runs for you?
Naturally, one is bound to ask the questions and more.
Which is really safer, computer controlled or human controlled cars? Which is better? Which one can you trust? Can we trust our lives into the “hands” of these automated contraptions?