Self-driving cars are almost here, but are they a good idea?

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Major car manufacturers are racing to produce a self-driving car. The era of getting a thrill by pushing down on that accelerator and watching that baby take off is almost over.

Cadillac is planning to start making one in 2017. It won’t be completely self-driving, but it will be able to negotiate the highway without human interference. You still have to have an adult with a valid driver’s license behind the wheel, but the car will take care of all the twists and turns, stopping and going.

The car will be able to negotiate traffic jams and open highways, so why the driver? It’s just in case the driver wants to do things the old-fashioned way.

Google has been running self-driven test cars around California for quite a while. The computer has logged 700,000-plus miles without an accident. Google only has one mishap, when the driver took over the controls, and another car crashed into the very expensive Google car.

Google’s cars are not cost-effective yet, but they are very smart, unlike the Mercedes Smart Car, which is actually not smart at all, but very small. It should have been called the Small Car.

They will make the roads and highways safer, but driving will lose much of its traditional romanticism, which has been around since the first cars hit the road. Or, will it make it better?

Remember the young lovers who were driving down the road in a nice convertible? The man held the steering wheel as the car wound its way around the mountainous roads? The girl, wearing a scarf on her head, snuggled up to him, feeling safe and secure, knowing that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
That is how cars have been romanticized in the movies.

Romance is in the air, until the driver becomes distracted, and the convertible flies off the hill, crashing to the ground in flames.

This last part won’t happen in a self-driven car, because the guy won’t be doing the driving. See, last thing you want to do when your girl wraps her arms around you is to drive a car. Get it?

One of the stories on the Internet machine that I lightly skimmed while researching this subject stated that if 10 percent of all cars were self-driven in the country, that would save 1,000 lives a year.

More than 30,000 people die in traffic accidents in the U.S.each year, so that would put a little dent in that. But to make a big difference, you’d have to make most, if not all the cars self-driven.

Take the task of driving away from the fallible human being, and give it to a computer that does it perfectly each time. This would be just one more thing that a computer would do better than a human.

Once you get one of those new and fancy cars that basically takes care of all the driving (not for a while, though), you won’t know how you could ever do without it. All those years of driving, getting all nervous in traffic jams, barely avoiding crashing, or even crashing, will be all gone.

Experts who have been working on this self-driving concept for a long time say that it not only will save lives, but also reduce, if not eliminate, traffic jams. Computers can talk to each other and figure out a way to get to to your destinations the fastest.

Just enjoy surfing the Internet and text your friends while the car does all the work.

Maybe after taking you to your destination, you can give the car a shopping list and it could drive itself to the supermarket while you sit in the movies. It might as well do something rather than just sit in that boring parking lot.

There may be one little problem down the line.

These cars may get too smart, and they could rise up against us. Then we’ll have to move underground and fight the machines.

Until then, though, it will be a nice change. I’ll be taking a long nap while the car drives itself, arriving at my destination nice and fresh.

Wait, but where am I? I don’t recognize this place. What are all these cars doing here? It has begun. I am running. It was only a nightmare.

But what’s my car doing in the bedroom?