Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Take me for a drive

Finally.  A gadget that is a bit more useful than your standard Sharper Image toy.

The state of Nevada has asked its Department of Motor Vehicles to work on regulations for self-driving cars.  While “auto-pilot” cars have been tested for a while now by firms such as Volkswagen and Google, this is the first time that a governmental body has given any signs that such cars are on the way.  By “on the way,” I don’t mean that self-driving cars will be on the highway in Nevada tomorrow, but that the state sees what’s coming down the road (pardon the pun) and is choosing to prepare for it.  And in my opinion, Nevada would make a good trial location for this sort of technology.  Having driven through that state, I can assure you that traffic is for the most part not an issue (what up, Rachel NV!) 
One might ask, exactly what constitutes a “self-driving” vehicle?  Nevada’s definition is “a motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors, and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.”  “Self-driving” is also known as “autonomous.”

I have never been a big fan of cars.  Even as a kid, when my friends were in the bathroom, wanking themselves to Car & Driver, Road & Track, Oily & Greasy or whatever, I just didn’t care about cars and which one had a “dual cam exhaust” or however one is supposed to impress another in car lingo.  Subsequently, I was none too eager to learn to drive a car either, but much to my chagrin, driving is indeed a necessary part of every day life and I do it anyway.  So any technology that will take that bit of drudgery from my already drudge-filled existence is most welcomed.  And before anyone asks, no…there really aren’t viable public transportation options for me (would that there were) but that’s beside the point.  It seems that no matter how you wish to avoid it, society demands that you drive.  On the plus side, I’m a car salesman’s worst nightmare; unable to be swayed by appeals to masculinity or “grown up toy” tactics.  Those guys typically find my aphorisms discouraging.

I’m certain I’m in the minority when it comes to cars and that many will be more than reluctant to turn control of their driving over to an AI.  For me however, it’s a sweet prospect to picture myself tooling down the street as a passenger and not a driver, drinking my latte while U2 and Duran Duran entertain from my MP3 player.  I’d even go so far as naming the car’s AI “Gus.”  That way I could adopt the old Greyhound ad line and just “leave the driving to Gus.”

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