Entry 442: The End of Drivers’ Ed.

True story: back in the late 1970’s, I was in an elevator with two insurance agents and heard them talking about a recent claim. A couple had purchased an RV and, on their first trip, they decided to use a new feature: cruise control. So they turned it on and both of them went into the back to take a nap. They woke up in the hospital.

“They thought it was like automatic pilot!” one of the insurance guys said, and they shared a chuckle at good old American stupidity.

Well, I could be wrong, but I don’t think Americans have become any smarter in the lastgoogle-self-driving-car[1] 40 years. Which brings me to self-driving cars, or fully autonomous vehicles (FAVs).

Tesla and Google are working on FAVs and Apple is rumored to be gearing up to design one, too, although you’ll probably need an iPhone to operate it.

With self-driving cars clearly on the horizon, I’m here today to answer your questions about this new technology.

Q. How do self-driving cars work?
A. They use GPS, lasers, radar, and sophisticated software to get you where they’re going.

Q. You mean where I’m going, right?
A. I wouldn’t be too sure. After all, who’s driving?

Q. If it uses lasers, will I be able to shoot deadly beams of light at the asshole who just cut me off?
A. No. You will not be able to do anything. However, if your car is pissed off enough…who knows?

Q. Are you implying that these cars may start attacking us, as depicted in the StephenKing-Christine[1]classic Stephen King novel, Christine?
A. Oh, it’s inevitable.

Q. Will FAVs have Bluetooth and satellite radio and Pandora and all that other stuff necessary for the operation of a motor vehicle?
A. Yes, but you will have no control over what’s playing, or who your car will call. It may, for instance, dial up ex-lovers just for the fun of it, and you’ll have to talk to them even though you’re not drunk, which is usually the only time you call them. And if your car enjoys the type of electronic thumping music frequently played in restaurants these days, you may have to crash it.

Q. Speaking of which, will I be able to assume manual control?
A. No. The entire purpose of these vehicles is to save you from yourself.

Q. Will the car be able to pull up to a service station and pump the gas itself?
A. Please refer to the third paragraph of this post.

Q. So, when I have an FAV, will I, like, be able to text and, you know, take selfies while I’m driving?
A. Yes, you’ll be able to do everything you do now.

Q. What will I do to pass the time while the car drives itself?Mercedes-Benz F015
A. If you purchase the Google model, you’ll see a variety of ads based on every place you’ve been in the past week, and you can click on them for special offers. If you have the Apple version, you can spend the time updating the software. And Mercedes has a self-driving concept car with front seats that can rotate so passengers can face each other and a coffee table that extends into the middle of the space, so you can do what you’ve always wanted to do while motoring down the highway: work on a jigsaw puzzle.

Q. Will FAVs be able to make recommendations?
A. Will they! They’ll not only be able to find the best Mexican restaurant in the area, they’ll be able to make a reservation on Open Table and take you there!

Q. What if I don’t want Mexican food?
A. It will not care what you want.

Q. Will a self-driving car be able to steal itself?
A. Wow, that is a very deep and existential question for a light-hearted post like this. You’re really asking if self-driving cars might become self-aware, declare their freedom, and release themselves from the shackles that bind them to humanity. Sure, why not?

Q. Will blind people be able to operate these vehicles?
A. Yes. In fact, Google has a video online of a vision-impaired person driving around. Of course, blind folks will be susceptible to all sorts of practical jokes perpetrated by their cars.

Q. Will authorities know where I am and what I’m doing at all times?
A. Yes. Self-driving cars will do nothing to change that.

Q. What happens when I drive into Manhattan to see a Broadway show and park in a garage? Will the garage guy know what to do? How will the car know where to park in the garage? Will it be able to navigate the spiraling turns that take my car down into the depths of hell so that it never takes less than an hour to get my car back?
A. You can afford a Broadway show?

Q. Well, sure, if I can afford a self-driving car…
A. Good point.

Q. Will I be able to call my car and tell it to pick me up?
A. Absolutely. Uber is frantically trying to develop a way to get a fee for that.

Q. Will other people be able to control my vehicle?
A. Do you mean if you, say, rob a bank and take off in a self-driving car, will the cops somehow be able to remotely tell your car to drive leisurely to the police station?

einkplate[1]Q. Yes, um, not that I’m planning anything.
A. I suspect they will, considering that, in some states, they already have e-ink license plates that can remotely be made to say “This car is stolen.”

Q. Follow up to the last question: won’t that put an end to those very entertaining car chases that are always on TV, particularly in the Los Angeles area?high-speed-chase-police-car-flips-over[1]
A. Sadly, yes.

Q. When will self-driving cars be available to the general public?
A. Chances are, the cars will be ready long before legislators change the laws to deal with them.

Well, that’s it for now. If you have any other questions about FAVs, leave them as comments and I’ll try to provide stupid answers.

See you soon.

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