Why autonomous cars rock

Andrew Sullivan

Check this video of a blind man going through a drive thru in his self-drive car, His autonomous car gives him freedom. something public transport will never do:

Steve Mahan is 95 percent blind. And yet he was able to get into a car and drive a pre-programmed  route from his California home to a Taco Bell restaurant. Mahan was driving a Google autonomous car.  For people like Mahan, who are visually impaired, this technology is liberating in a pretty fundamental way. It gives him the freedom of mobility, and the ability to be independent. While it will take a few more years for these vehicles to be widely available to the public, the video [above] gives us a glimpse of what the future will be like.

This is exactly why adherence to 19th century transport technology is not only a waste of public money but just plain silly:

Why drive to a train station, park, pay for a ticket, wait, hop on a train, sit for a while, then hop back in a car or other train when you get close to your destination, when you can just take a nap while your self-driving car carries you safely—and directly—to your destination?

Len Brown and other public transport adherents need to get out more. But Len already knows this…he hardly ever takes the train, preferring the convenience of his car.


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  • Bawaugh

    There is only so much room on the roads, when you run out of room people have to share, end of story.  

    I like the benefit of not having to find somewhere to park a car, risking getting a car clamped/towing fees and paying for parking. Anyway it is nice to sit in a bus and let somebody else do the driving. 


    • toby_toby

      Best thing is being able to drink and then get driven home. All we need now is a robot that can scoop you out of the car and put you to bed in the recovery position.

      • Steve P

        Of course they had to use a Prius.

        Semi-autonomous vehicles that run on environmentally sound biofuels have been around for some time now, and they are capable of getting intoxicated drivers safely home.

        They used to be known as “horse and cart”.

    • James

      Cool….so fund all that yourself.

  • Steve P

    So what happens when the first person (a child, say) is run over. The driver won’t be held responsible because they’ll be blind. The manufacturer won’t be held responsible because they’ll say the gummint told us it’s a good idea. The gummint won’t be held responsible because… it’s the gummint.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think things like platooning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platoon_(automobile) have great potential, but come on, blind people “driving” cars down suburban streets is just asking for trouble, no matter what jiggery-pokery you put under the dashboard.

    • tas

      40,000 people die in car accidents in the US every year and almost all of that is due to driver error. Humans are lousy drivers and should be replaced. 

      • Steve P

        Replaced by… cars programmed by computer nerds?

        There’s definitely a place for automated transport systems operating in closely controlled environments: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docklands_Light_Railway 

        and it is true that most car accidents are due to driver error (that’s why the cops call them “crashes” not “accidents”) however I think technology should be used to assist drivers, not to replace them (and no, I’m not some Luddite; in fact I work with computers… maybe that’s why I don’t trust them).

  • Brian Smaller

    I hope that the software is bug free.

    Would have been nice to see what happens if someone had pulled in front of the car, or a kid kicked a ball in front of the vehicle, or a dog ran onto the road, or a cyclist swerved around one of those parked cars…in other words, it was a pretty sedate and remarkably clear road.

    • Lofty

       True Brian, but like all great ideas, ya gotta start somewhere.

      I love the fact that man can do this shit, it is very exciting, now that the shuttles have been mothballed by Obama.

    • Tristanb

       If someone walks out in front of it, the car gently brakes and swerves to avoid the object.

  • Bob

    “Replaced by… cars programmed by computer nerds?”

    What’s wrong? ATM, banking, stock market, traffic light, elevator, telephone switch board and lots of other stuffs have been replaced by computer

    • Steve P

      ATMs are monitored and recorded partly so that when they dispense the wrong notes dishonest customers can be tracked down.
      Computerised trading has been implicated in the 1987 crash.
      Intersections flow better when the traffic lights stop working.
      Elevators are protected by mechanical brakes that absolutely prevent disaster.
      XT network…

      I’ve got nothing against computers; certainly not, but there are *always* trade-offs… so the question is, what are the trade-offs for having computer-controlled cars in suburban streets? Will those cars end up being so sensitive to false positives (screeching to a halt whenever there is someone on the pavement) that people just won’t bother?

  • insider

    There was a blind guy who drove around the top gear track a few years ago. Don’t think he was the slowest either

  • mikehuss

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