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Hands-off driving

Troy Wilkinson
Troy Wilkinson

Imagine a world where driving is a thing of the past, where people can sleep during the drive or play poker with friends while a robotic chauffeur steers them safely to their destination. This imaginary world is closer to reality than some may think; an automated car drove across the country a few weeks ago.

However, it remains to be seen how automated cars are going to be implemented, especially when human drivers are occupying the road too. Not only will there be nobody to shout at, but there is nobody to trust in the drivers seat. Humans are by no means perfect drivers, but would driver-less cars be any better?

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It’s hard to say, but driver-less cars are certainly inevitable. The direction of the automobile market seems to be heading that way. Electric vehicles are on the rise, and technologies like blind spot detection, collision warning and automatic parking have received a warm reception.

Once legal hurdles get dealt with and the final aspects of driverless technology get figured out, automated car robots will swarm the streets. Already huge names have put their foot in the driver-less car door. Companies like Google, Tesla and Audi have made strides in getting a feasible driver-less car on the road.

The legal problems with driver-less cars seem to be a large roadblock. Who becomes liable for a car crash that has no drivers? Logically the automakers would be those who would need to take the fall, but I would wager against them accepting that without protest.

Road trips without a driver? I would love to sip tea and play chess while a car drives me to my destination. Reading a book during a long commute to work? Sounds much more enticing than staring at a road for half an hour. Whether these reasons are enough for warranting driver-less cars is a tough question. Driver-less cars could possibly make the road much safer, it could also make commuting much less of a chore, but what do we lose from taking our hands off the wheel?

I don’t know if a driver-less road trip would be quite as good as a regular one. To many people, it feels great to drive a car, part of a road trip is having someone in the drivers seat. In a way submitting entirely to the driverless car system could disconnect modern society with their roots. Without actual driving, technology might disconnect people even further than it already has.

So much has been sacrificed for efficiency these days. Social media, while it is a great way to reach a large amount of people quickly, has somewhat shoved meaningful, face-to-face interaction to the wayside. Same with smartphones, they let us figure out things almost instantly, but have led to a disconnect between one another; people stare at their phone’s five-inch screen instead of talking with the human being standing right next to them.

With the rise of every new technology it is good to be a bit cautious. There is no doubt that automated cars will be both useful and amazing. The real question is what do we lose by taking our hands off the wheel.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson is currently stranded on a island with his two cats and his dog. Send help, feedback or comments to letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @blumitts.

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