My eyes are heavy and the cold air blasting is actually starting to feel nice. I’m really tired, but I still have 10 minutes to go. I flip on the radio and coincidentally, there’s a program on about self-driving. Man, I think that’d be nice.
I live half an hour from Keene and commute six of the seven days in a week.
It can be brutal, especially at the end of the day when I just want to be watching “The Office” and eating Doritos.
As I listen intently to this program, also as a way to distract me from my drive, I agree that self-driving cars could do wonders for our future.
I hear advocates for self-driving cars claim they will make us safer passengers, provide more time and decrease traffic, which would help the environment. I’m sold.
But then, I stop listening and start thinking. How cognizant do we actually need to be with self-driving cars? Already, I think we put too much faith in technological devices that don’t always prove to be smarter than us. For example, GPS devices aren’t always correct, but so often we don’t realize that until we’re in the boondocks of nowhere where Bigfoot just might kill us.
I wonder what will happen if people think of self-driving cars as cab drivers. Does that mean that people who are intoxicated can “legally” get behind the wheel? What happens if we’re just sleepy and we figure it’s okay to let the car do it’s thing because, well, it seems better and we’re too tired to argue. Who or what draws the line?
I tune back into the program and it’s here that I realize maybe we do need to change something with our cars.
Maybe it’s not who’s driving the car, but how many are driving the car. The speakers talk about how if we had more self-driving cars, it could potentially cut down on the amount of cars humans use.
In 2014, there were 253 million cars in the U.S. according to IHS Automotive. That’s a ‘wheel’ problem for the environment and a large cost to the consumer.
So, what if instead we shared cars on a more widespread and regular basis?
Are we really so attached to our cars that we have to be with them even when we’re physically not?
Of course, I know carpooling is a popular idea in bigger cities, but why not make it more widespread? Why not advertise the fact that we could all save money by doing so?
I worry that we’re leaping over making a human change and giving the responsibility to computers. Obviously, I acknowledge sharing cars can bring about its own host of issues: making sure people have cars in case of an emergency, or doctor’s appointments. Then there could be the problem of not feeling entirely safe with strangers in “your” car, leading up to the larger issue of who would technically own said cars and how would insurance figure in?
Ultimately, it comes down to control. But why is it easier to imagine giving control to a machine than another human being?
Maybe it needs to be a combination of things: more carpools, more public transit, more willingness to let go the right way before we convert to self-driving cars.
Before we exhaust all other options to take our responsibility out of the equation, what if we pool together and go the distance by thinking of ways to help each other instead of just trying to replace our minds? Isn’t that the greatest machine of all?
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org