There are several car companies with cars with driving aids. Automatic lane departure warnings. Blind spot warnings*. Automatic braking. My favorite though is the technology that Infinity has available to detect pending crashes 2 cars ahead of you. Impressive!
The next step? Fully autonomous vehicles. The movie “Total Recall” (the original one) had an autonomous vehicle called the “Johnny Cab”. Inside this car was the bust of a cab driver, complete with speech recognition and semi-artificial intelligence.
While we don’t have self-driving taxis yet, several auto manufacturers and software companies are working on self-driving personal vehicles. Personally, I think this is a great idea. My wife? Not so much.
Google was one of the first out of the gate with self-driving vehicles. They have a fleet of Toyota Priuses that can go from one location to the next, even on public roads. These cars have driven hundreds of thousands of miles with only two accidents: Both accidents were caused by human drivers crashing into the self-driving vehicles.
Nissan has been making waves recently with demonstrations of a fully autonomous LEAF. The difference here is that Nissan builds the cars, while Google is still just a software company (Motorola acquisition not withstanding). Nissan plans to bring their autonomous technology to the market by the year 2020.
You can imagine the positives quite easily: Fewer — or no — accidents. Fewer traffic problems. Less fuel used (because the computers will automatically determine the best route). Being able to do other things than driving.
What about the negatives? Now, I’m not concerned about the Terminator-style “robots taking over the world”. I’m wondering about car manufacturers. With fewer accidents, fewer cars will need to be replaced. Will car sharing become widespread? Will the act of driving become extinct?
Either way, I’m looking forward to my first autonomous vehicle. These are exciting times!
* Didn’t stop a Lexus driver from nearly side-swiping me, even though I saw the yellow blind spot alert light in her side mirror. Humans continue to be the weakest link.