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Baby, You Can Drive My Car

For the baby boomers among us, many will remember drawing pictures of futuristic cars as children.  Bubble cars, flying cars, hovercrafts, and the like.  Those dreams are now someone’s reality.  A news article I read a while back mentioned that companies are working on building cars that fly.  Roads are becoming too congested and it’s too expensive to build additional, larger ones so the only way to go is up.

Reality check!  We don’t need flying cars.  This phenomenon will put a whole new meaning to the term multi-car accident.  A mishap in the air is likely to generate a chain reaction of crashes at all levels below.  Not only would you have to look ahead, behind, and to both sides, but now you would have to worry about things crashing into you from above!  The insurance companies would have a field day.

Instead of flying cars, what we really need are cars that drive themselves.  These would be automobiles that go safe speeds (e.g. faster than current posted speeds, conditions permitting); never tailgate; activate their turn signals at the appropriate time; never be “under the influence”; never cross the center lane; and never run red lights.  What a utopia that would be!

Driverless cars would maintain a safe distance between each other and move at a constant speed to avoid congestion.  The vehicle would auto-adjust to weather – slick roads, rain, ice, or snow.  They could auto correct if they began to fishtail.  No more human error.

Of course you would not be able to slow down to gawk at something on the side of the road (you know who you are); primarily because there will be so much less to gawk at.  We would need fewer law enforcement officers patrolling the streets and highways as driving would be a much safer – they could direct their efforts to more serious matters.

Using GPS, radar, and sonar technology, you would know if there is anything from a person to an animal to another car in front of you, even in a dense fog or white out blizzard.

Have you ever wanted to drive across country?  In an automobile that drives itself, you could actually see the sights as you drive.  Or, if you’re in a hurry, set it on auto pilot and sleep through the night as your car continues steadily towards your destination.

Road rage would be a thing of the past.  Just program your GPS with your destination and it will route you the most efficient way possible, avoiding accidents, construction, and congestion. 

Just think, it would be like having your own personal chauffer!  You could kick back and read the paper, balance your checkbook, put on makeup, eat your breakfast/lunch/dinner, knit a scarf, watch a sporting event, talk or text all you want, or countless other more productive pursuits; all while arriving at your destination more relaxed and without all the stressors that bombard us during everyday traffic.  No one would ever hassle you about that 6th martini or 8th pint of beer because you’d never actually be driving (well, they might still harass you but for other reasons). 

The cars could come equipped with an “emergency” button that sends a signal to surrounding vehicles that you need to pass, for those important moments like your wife is in labor, or you sliced open your arm working with power tools.  Of course there would need to be a safeguard to keep people from abusing this option –like it could only be used when the destination is a hospital.  Or better yet, make an H button to route you speedily to the nearest medical facility.

There could be other buttons you can pre-set just like radio stations.  Ones for “home”, “grocery store”, “mall”, “hardware store”, “gym”, and “work”.  Notice I don’t mention “gas station”.  Hopefully this new technology will run on alternative energy that eliminates our dependency on fossil fuels and reduces our carbon footprint.

Since these cars could sense each other, your vehicle would automatically know where the next, closest parking spot would open up.  Better yet, it could drop you off at the door and go park itself.  Use your key-fob or smart phone to let it know when to pick you up as well.  There you go, inventors, develop an app for that!

This methodology could be applied to freight trucks, as well.  They would drive at a safe speed based on the weight of the vehicle and road conditions.  No more Truck A going 30 mph passing Truck B going 29 mph up hill on a two lane freeway!  (No, I’m not trying to put truckers out of work, so put down your nasty grams – there could still be truckers in the vehicles to guard the contents and assist with loading and unloading at pickup and drop-off points.)  The same could apply to buses, motor homes, and other large vehicles.

We could include motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles, for those who love the wind in their hair (and bugs in their teeth).  All motorized and non-motorized vehicles would be able to detect each other and make the necessary adjustments.

Some may ask why include bicycles in this category?  Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many bicyclists who want the use of the roadways without seeing the need to follow the rules of the roadway.  Motorists aren’t immune to abusing their privileges, either, but you’re much safer enclosed in a 2000 lb vehicle than atop a 10 lb exposed bicycle.   In order to allow these enthusiasts to get their exercise or explore off-road pursuits, there could be a “manual” mode.  However, as soon as the vehicle enters a normal roadway, it would switch back to “auto pilot”, or only kick into smart mode when there is another vehicle a certain distance away.

People might argue that if cars drive themselves, isn’t that the same as mass transit?  It actually might encourage more people to engage in mass transit as it will be easier and faster to get from point A to point B.   We could still keep car pools and van pools, soccer Moms and hockey Dads; however, we would actually be giving them more time to get to know each other or bond since they won’t be consumed with the act of driving.

Don’t worry that this type of technology would turn all cars into look-a-like clones.  There could still be big cars and small cars, sports cars and mini-vans, and even the environmentally unfriendly SUV (why do so many people need an automobile designed to go off road when the closest 99.9% of them ever get to an all-terrain experience is a speed bump).  If you really did want to take a vehicle off road, it could have the same mechanism as the bicycles mentioned above – manual mode for non-pavement, back to “safe” mode when on a solid surface.

One of the last, but certainly not least of the benefits to driverless cars – little or no car insurance!  If the cars are programmed to maneuver in a safe manner, there won’t be many (if any) accidents.  About the most you would need is protection against a computer malfunction. 

So let’s scrap those flying cars – the insurance premiums alone would scare most people away, anyway. Let’s channel our creative efforts into vehicles that drive themselves.  No mess, no stress, just a smooth ride.



Note to inventors out there, after you finish creating a car that drives itself, how about inventing a house that cleans itself?  Now that’s an invention where I could consider making an investment.