Sunday, 1 June 2014

We Hope You Enjoy the Ride

Self-driving cars have been predicted by science-fiction for many years and finally they may be hitting our roads. Google recently unveiled its first self-drive autonomous car which has no pedals, steering wheel or seemingly no method of control. Not having any way to control a car other than voice seems a little scary to me. Maybe they should have some sort of smiley faced driver to give an illusion that there is at least something driving.

Science-fiction fans will remember Johnny Cab out of the original (and by far the best ("consider that a divorce")) Total Recall movie. Although, I seem to remember Johnny Cab tried to murder Arnie… Okay, just ignore that sentence.

Self-driving cars are definitely on their way with car manufacturers gradually building in more and more automation with every new model. Some cars available today will swerve or apply the brakes to avoid accidents, keep the car in the centre of its lane not to mention cruise control and parking assistance. These cars are sneaking up on us.

Hopefully, this won’t result in a Disney Cars situation where they gain sentience kill us all and then replace us. Joking aside, I believe that self-driving cars will probably be a lot safer than the cars we use today. It will allow the elderly and disabled a lot more freedom even if they do not have the ability to drive a car. It will undoubtably change the way we think of cars and open up new ways of using them. Car sharing will become commonplace as cars are able to look after themselves, you will not need to worry about some idiot getting drunk and crashing it. Taxi and bus drivers could be a thing of the past.

You may think that self-driving cars are a rather benign future technology and I thought so too. In the light of Edward Snowden revelations there are one or two concerns that could potentially change our lives. The Google car has 360° vision and would probably be able to record it too. Cars may be able to lock the doors on unsuspecting criminals and deliver them straight to the police. Governments, may mandate that all cars must be self-drive - they could do this to reduce the road toll. Meanwhile, our cars may be watching our every move able to report information to law enforcement authorities. No more Thelma and Louise, but no more getting heavy or lighting up a joint on the back seat either.

Self-driving cars have the potential to be a wonderful technology, but we need to make sure that they aren’t used as another weapon to eliminate privacy and bring on a police state.

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