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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Against "Autonomous Driving"
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Yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, General Motors chief executive Rick Wagoner delivered an address on the future of automobiles and technology and hyped the concept of “autonomous driving.” "Autonomous driving means that someday you could do your e-mail, eat breakfast, do your makeup, and watch a video while commuting to work," Wagoner said. “In other words, you could do all the things you do now while commuting to work but do them safely.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite. Matter of fact, I’m obsessed with technology and A/V gadgets, and I have covered tech policy issues for a living a 3 different think tanks over the past 16 years. I love all things tech. But I love driving more. A lot more. I have been fanatical about my sports cars ever since I was a kid. From my first car--a 1979 "Smokey & the Bandit" Pontiac TransAm--to my 86 Mustang GT, to my 90 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo, my BMWs (two M3s and an 850i) all the way to my current 2005 Lotus Elise--I have been completely obsessed with cars and the joys of motoring throughout my life. And the idea that we’ll all one day soon be driving to work in the equivalent of personal subway cars makes me a little sad because it means the joy of driving might me lost in coming generations.

I wonder if my son will grow up with the same passion for motoring that I have, and that my dad had before me. (I’m certainly going to have something to say about it!) And I wonder if, a generation from now, “driver’s education” classes will consist of little more than downloading a user name and password for your computer-car.

On the upside, I suppose I could see the advantage of making the driving experience fully automated for all those idiots on the road who really do engage in risky behaviors in their cars, like “e-mail, eat[ing] breakfast, do[ing] your makeup, and watch[ing] a video while commuting to work,” as Wagoner suggests. I hate those SOBs. They give me nightmares because, at a minimum, I fear what they might do to my car when they are not looking at the road. Worse yet, I think of the danger they pose to pedestrians (like my kids). So, perhaps a Jetsons-mobile for these morons will be an effective way to reduce accidents and traffic fatalities.
Lotus at GW scenic overlook 1
But as for myself, I will pass on “autonomous driving,” thank you very much. I want to be fully in control of my motoring experience forever more. Especially behind the wheel of my beloved Lotus Elise!

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:36 AM | Generic Rant , Innovation

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