QOTD: When Will Autonomous Cars Outnumber The Manually Driven?
I’ll admit it. I, the millennial managing editor of an automotive blog, would absolutely rely on an autonomous car for my day-to-day errands or long-distance commutes. Why wouldn’t I? I can kick back, relax, talk with people, get some writing done, or anything else I could possibly do on an airplane. As long as all the other vehicles on a roadway are autonomous, it’ll be safer, too!
Why do I think this way? The majority of the driving we do is boring. I can just imagine hailing an autonomous car on my phone, waiting for it to arrive to my home, and setting it to drive me wherever I want in relative comfort. Why should I need to stay alert at a four-way stop if technology can make that a thing of the past?
Except it probably won’t work quite like that.
Instead, we are seeing autonomous tech come out in trickles.
While the Google autonomous car project is the one garnering the most press at the moment and Tesla is also in the running for headlines, Cadillac, Audi and other manufacturers are putting semi-autonomous technology in their cars right now or in the not too distant future.
Cadillac Super Cruise will be here next year on the CTS and CT6. This is probably the best application of our semi-autonomous near future. Long-distance driving is great when you get to enjoy your surroundings. It isn’t so great when you’re staring down the rear bumper of an RV with F-150 taillights.
But, in order for the autonomous future to happen — the one where we have roadways dedicated to fully autonomous cars and us humans aren’t allowed to manually drive — the autonomous cars need to outnumber the ones that don’t.
This happened back in the early 20th century. “Automobilists” as they were called back then were on the constant defensive against livery stable owners and other businessmen who had a vested interest in keeping real horsepower on city streets. Take this exchange between two groups at a meeting in New York City discussing automobiles in Central Park.
Lawson N. Fuller said that he had been fifty-six years in New-York, and had driven more miles in Manhattan Island than any other man in the city. “And I must say from experience,” he added. “that the vehicle which frightens my horses most is the baby wagon. Next to that is a wet spot on the road.
“Maybe your horses are nearsighted,” interrupted Alderman Bailey, with a sneer. “There are nearsighted horses, you know.”
“Yes there are nearsighted horses and near sighted mules and nearsighted asses,” replied Mr Fuller, at which the Alderman subsided in a burst of laughter from the crowd.
New-York Tribune., November 10, 1899, Page 6, Image 6
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Outnumber not before 2050 minimum.
When will it happen in Japan? I've often claimed that self-driving cars appeal to three types of people. Drunks, soccer moms, and the elderly. The point being that the elderly always vote, the soccer moms usually vote, and the drunks often lose politically even with the entire liquor industry behind them. Then there is Japan with its famously aging population and its equally famous high-tech ways (personally I can't take Japanese software seriously, but maybe they will import it). My guess is that whatever google and co. wants to do with autonomous cars, they will be able to do in Japan (assuming they are willing to sufficiently humor MITI). I suspect the US could easily make plans for autonomous cars by watching Japan, but will simply blunder blindly into a brave new world in the name of "American exceptionalism".