An Ode to Self Driving Cars – Because, Let’s Face It, Some Of Us Hate Driving

Photo by riciardus on Pexels

I can’t wait for driverless cars.

I know it might not happen while I am still alive, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming.

I hate driving, especially in traffic. I have given up on driving altogether in the city I live in – because the place is not exactly a driver’s paradise with its bumper-to-bumper traffic and the lack of parking space.

My location is equipped with good public transportation – I am able to catch an Uber or an autorickshaw the moment I step out of my house. So at the most, I take my car out maybe once every month.

I would like a driverless car for the following reasons though:

  • I can let my car take all the headache (or should I say bumperache?) of finding a parking slot. Or I can order it to go right back home, if there are no parking slots available anywhere.
  • Heck, I wouldn’t even need to own a car if there are driverless robocabs hovering nearby. This is what Zoox has in mind – not to sell robo cars but to offer them as taxis.
  • My elderly mom could go on a solo trip without depending on anyone.
  • People with disabilities would be able to travel on their own.
  • People who hate driving can avoid driving! Whaaaat? You thought everyone liked driving? Tsk tsk.

Change is difficult, I know. And scary. History is a key witness to such skepticism and cynicism evoked by changing circumstances. Every new discovery or invention is met with stubborn resistance. For example, the automatic elevator. Did you know elevators used to be manually lifted before? When the automatic elevators were invented, many were adamant about not using those strange machines. Too dangerous, they said. Sounds familiar? Now we know how that story ended. 

It is the story of many automated machines. Some still face flak even if they are widely in use.

Let’s take the case of automatic transmission cars. They are everywhere now. Many prefer to drive an automatic instead of a manual – it makes life easier. No stress of shifting gears, you just need to concentrate on the road. Yet, there was, and still is, a lot of resistance towards teaching new drivers how to drive using an automatic car. I know many new drivers who would prefer to learn in an automatic because they have no intention of driving a manual transmission car in the future. Once you start driving an automatic, there’s no going back. For two reasons – 1) You become accustomed to driving an automatic. 2) You end up forgetting how to drive a manual. So what was the need of teaching such drivers how to drive a manual, anyway? Many learn driving with only one intention – that of traveling from Point A to Point B; not to learn the intricacies and technicalities involved with changing gears. But as mentioned before, change is difficult. When there are alternative automated solutions, we still tend to prefer the conventional methods.

Human beings in general are terrible drivers, even if most believe otherwise. It is impossible to get a 360-degree view of our surroundings, something a machine can do effortlessly, so we cannot really blame ourselves for our mishaps. We end up speeding when we are not supposed to, we drink and drive when we are not supposed to, we get distracted easily by the smallest of things, we make clumsy mistakes that can cost lives, and yet… we have trouble trusting machines.

Self driving cars have a long way to go before they become available to the public. Preparations are in full swing – like in the case of Waymo (Google’s self driving car), which was recently tested on urban terrains.

If driverless cars are approved, I would be first in line – provided it is affordable. Did I say affordable? If only wishes were horses. Till then, I will make do with ogling small, cute cars.