Will you miss getting behind the wheel of an automobile?

Driverless carsSelfDrivingCar.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeI’ve made the observation that China is an entire country learning to drive at the same time.  This is in contrast to people like me who had their learner’s permit at age 16 and their driver’s license shortly thereafter.     As a recent report suggests younger Americans are eschewing driver’s licenses at a greater rate than at any time during the past 30 years. 

Last week I drove more than 700 miles each way to South Carolina from Connecticut and aside from some traffic on the return trip I enjoyed the ride and being behind the wheel.    Google’s self-driving cars will ultimately have my experience be a rarity or even make it extinct.   Will the adoption of driverless cars happen by a majority of Americans in the next twenty years?

Is this hard for you to believe?   Think about it.  Driverless cars are eminently safer than human driven vehicles.    On Wednesday Tesla Motors Elon Musk detailed his plans for driverless vehicles.  While Mr. Musk prefers to use the term ‘autopilot’, the result is the same.   You sit in the car and plug in a destination and off you go.    In a world of only self-driving vehicles there would be no more speeding, almost no more accidents (after all even self-driven cars will experience unforeseen things like weather and road conditions that cannot always be forecast), less traffic (I can’t see a day with NO traffic) and no more fun operating a car on the open road.   Car insurance rates should also drop dramatically shouldn’t they?

I thought about all these things during my 24 hours of driving last week.   How it makes total sense to have auto-piloted vehicles.    You plug in your destination, you get a schedule based on traffic forecast, get in the passenger or back seat and you know exactly when you will arrive at your destination – efficient, predictable, and safe.  And also, boring.  Just like airline, bus, and train travel.

I admit there are many other benefits such as elderly people having the freedom to come and go in their auto-piloted vehicles even after they have lost their ability to operate a motor vehicle.  Come to think of it, by the time there’s widespread adoption of driverless automobiles I should be pretty close to having that as my only option.   I’ll be happy and sad at the same time.

Driverless cars will make distracted driving a thing of the past.   And quite possibly thirty or more years from now it will cost you more to operate your vehicle (if that is allowed at all) should you so desire.  Somehow sitting in the passenger seat of a convertible driven by Google just doesn’t have the same thrill and enjoyment as driving yourself.

What do you think?    Will you miss getting behind the wheel?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
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10 Responses to Will you miss getting behind the wheel of an automobile?

  1. bhartman36 says:

    I replied to this on Google+, but I’ll do the same here. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to driverless cars, because they will make me more independent. I’m handicapped, and can’t drive. A car that I don’t have to physically drive would be a tremendous benefit to me, and many people like me.

    I can understand the reluctance to give up manual driving, but frankly, it would surprise me if this didn’t happen eventually. Airplanes had “manual” steering at one time, too. As speeds go higher and the complexity of the tasks increase, computers are just a safer option. A human being simply can’t react as quickly as a human can. On the flip side of that, a computer can’t deal with anything it hasn’t been programmed to adapt to, so that may be a challenge.

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  2. olivierlehe says:

    Dear Mark, very interesting post and subject. For my point of view, it will not be boring. Currently, when you are driving more than two hours, it is generally boring. You are tired, you would like to arrive soon. Imagine that you are able after giving the destination to sleep, to go on Internet, to play games with you children in the car auto driven. Imagine that you are able to work if you drive during your job. With these new auto pilot cars, you can imagine millions of thinks more interesting than driving a car: prepare a new post for instance… Many thanks for your article. And don’t hesitate to watch my website on innovation: http://www.worldofinnovations.net

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    • markkolier says:

      Merci Olivier and thank you for your observation that people will be able to do things while they car-travel much like the way it is on a plane or train. I’ve visited and really like http://www.worldofinnovations.net your site and particularly like the post on tennis (am a big tennis fan and was a decent player). Keep up the good work!

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  3. HallieCantor says:

    I would love to see a Google car drive through Big Sur. Driverless cars, like customer support staff in India, are fine for something straightforward. Anything more complex? Or dangerous? Give me the wheel.

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    • markkolier says:

      I suspect the Google Car has already driven through Big Sur Hallie as both California and Nevada have approved testing of the driverless cars. But I’m with you on still wanting the wheel when things get testy. Thanks as always for your thoughtful comment.

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  4. Mark Rickard says:

    No, no, no. If I win Powerball this week the very first thing I will do is get myself a full time car/driver. It’s stressful (at least in NY), frustrating, enraging and dangerous. I appreciate scenic drives as much as the next guy but most of the driving any of us do is to get from point A to point B. Give me a comfortable back seat, something to read (or maybe I’ll take a snooze), headphones and a wireless connection should I be so inclined to access a Kolier post. And wake me up when we get there….

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    • markkolier says:

      Actually if you win Powerball this week would you buy the Mets and then buy some outfielders? I’ll be your driver BTW. Thanks for reading Mark – flattered!

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  5. Tom says:

    The lure of the open road will always be enticing, but in fact if most of the time you are in fact sitting in “Blocking the box” gridlock or the 405 under construction, wouldn’t it be pleasant to leave the driving to Hal and focus on more enjoyable/productive pursuits? Please the idea of taking a ride on my Google driving motorcycle sounds intriguing!

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  6. markkolier says:

    Thanks Tom, I am totally on board (literally and figuratively) with having a more productive time in a car or as you point out on a motorcycle. But I also want the choice to drive if I care to – and that may not be part of the future of driverless cars.

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