TeslaMondo believes that despite some potential benefits of autonomous transport, the utopian vision of cars moving effortlessly like blood cells through capillaries, each with a little lubricated buffer zone, is never going to become real. Instead, autonomy will stop well short of that vision, will prove itself a mixed blessing, will ultimately render us only a little better off than we are now. Why the lukewarm attitude on the subject? These roadblocks aren’t easily pushed aside:
The override button. Surely every car, no matter how smart, will have a manual override. Your life could depend on it. Sometimes you simply MUST commandeer your car to get yourself out of harm’s way. But if there’s an override available, surely it will be abused. So we’ll always have to deal with people riding “bareback” and messing up the flow.
The desire to drive. Think it will ever go away? Not a chance.
Crime. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
Old cars. Until the roads are free of “dumb” cars that require a driver — and that could take a century — car travel will have to cater to the lowest common denominator.
Pedestrians. Ever drive through Manhattan? It’s you versus them. If your car politely defers to them, you’ll be sitting there at a green light. And the next green light. And the next green light.
Poor infrastructure. No car can read signs and road markings that don’t exist, or have been deftly vandalized so that 30mph says 80mph.
Cognitive distraction. If you let your guard down while the car drives itself, your reaction time to an emergency — one that the car can’t dodge — is dangerously bad. You might as well be drunk. And surely people will be exactly that — not to mention nude.
Balloon boys. If cars require almost no input to move around, some cars will end up sailing down the highway with a thoroughly confused and frightened guest on board.
Litigiousness. No need to elaborate on this one.
And the list goes on. Autonomous driving will offer some benefits, but as we’ve seen with The Jetsons or 2001: A Space Odyssey — when we try to predict our relationship with technology, we tend to overreach just a bit.