The self-driving future

When was the last time you rode a horse to the grocery store?

Yeah, me neither. Point is, nobody in the future is going to drive.

By “nobody”, I mean a few eccentric hobbyists who actually enjoy driving, myself included, but nothing like the present numbers of mostly unenthused, mostly bad drivers.

Well, our deliverance is at hand. Self-driving cars are here, and they work. They’re already better than mammalian drivers, and keep getting better every day.

The reason they’re not yet on sale and in wide use is because lawyers and regulators have not yet figured out how and whom to sue and how to extract unearned rent from the technology.

Within a decade, driving will be a hobby for the bored husbands of rich ladies, much like horse-riding is today with the actors reversed.

And an insanely dangerous one at that.

I say that as a passionate driver. And horse rider.

There’s nothing quite like taking a Jaguar E-Type through its paces in the Swiss alps. Or so I heard, because the only thing I ever drove there was a giant SUV.

That option will remain, with perhaps stricter licensing. Going vroom up the Albula pass in something Bond and cabrio, yes. I am going to be one of the enthusiasts who insist on piloting, but it’s completely clear this will be the rare exception.

I guarantee you the notion of letting millions of people manually conduct two-ton hunks of flammable steel at ballistic speeds at each other is going to sound insane in fifty years – like letting people throw away babies they consider unlikely to be much use in a phalanx sounds insane now.

Driving will be the smoking of our generation – your kids are going to be shaking their heads in amazement how the fuck this was ever considered normal.

Forty thousand people die every year on American roads alone. Forty thousand. That’s a medium sized town. It’s 0.5% of the entire population of my country. That’s genocide numbers.

And it’s disproportionately young people. If we want to help western countries stop dying out and fading from memory like Tolkien’s elves, this is a good place to start.

The global number is more than one million people per year, by the way. That’s a holocaust and a half every decade.

Bad driving claims more victims every day than terrorist attacks did in the last fifty years. And where’s the war on bad drivers?

Ninety nine percept of people hate driving, and twice as many are rubbish at it.

And then, things that aren’t anybody’s fault happen that humans aren’t quick enough to react to.

So let the machines do most of the driving, and let the hobbyists have the interesting roads on weekends.

It will get all the bad drivers into the backseats of their (or Uber/Tesla/Lyft/Google/other) cars with a nice glass of Chardonnay, which is a win-win for everyone on the road (and close to it).

For the job of actually getting somewhere, autonomous vehicles are just better any way you look at it.

Yes, many jobs will go. Especially the heavily communistical in public transit, and the prostitute-soliciting in hauling.

But that’s like complaining there are no more plague corpse collectors. Those were bad jobs to begin with, and only existed because of a now preventable problem.

dead

Switching to a truck-driving system that doesn’t masturbate while driving, flick flaming cigarette butts onto people’s windshields or overtake each other at a speed differential of one Planck length per glacial period over three and a half Bundeslands is an improvement in my book.

Still, the greatest advantages are in personal transportation. Think of all the time it will save us. Autonomous cars will be a liberation, a revolution on a scale with the mechanisation of agriculture. Bigger than washing machines, dishwashers and microwave ovens combined.

If we stop wasting an hour or two every day driving to and from places, that’s a buttload of time – now multiply that by billions of people. More time for everyone to spend at home, at work, or wherever else – but not stuck in traffic. And even the time that you are in traffic, you can spend talking to your family, reading a book, quietly reflecting or getting extra work done. Or fucking in the back seat. All good.

And not only will the time in transit be used better, there will be less of it too – reaction times, petty selfishness and plain old mistakes mean human drivers never come close to utilising the full capacity of infrastructure. The machines do. They can coordinate with light-speed reaction times in ways that make the Moscow ballet look like a bunch of clumsy brutes.

Less time in transit, that time better spent, and more time at the endpoints.

By utilising existing infrastructure much more efficiently, self-driving cars reduce the need for further infrastructure construction, making cities more beautiful while simultaneously opening up alternative uses for the huge amounts of saved money.

Then there is parking – you just step out of the car in front of wherever you’re going and instruct it to pick you up later. It buggers off into an underground garage, or better yet, joins a fleet of autonomous taxis and actually makes money for you when you’re not using it.

Rather than being a deprecating asset, your car will make money for you while ensuring fewer of them are needed to get everyone around. So total car ownership will go down while everyone will get around much more comfortably and quicker than now.

Those are goals that various governments and groupthink tanks have been pursuing for decades, in characteristically asinine coercive and restrictive ways. It boiled down to trying to regulate, inconvenience and shame driving out of practicality, without having a viable alternative to offer.

Then came Silicon Valley with its characteristic way of giving people a better option. This is how tech is the antithesis of statism.

Reread that point. It’s really important.

The future is so bright I need a welding mask. The future is Musky.

Now that we have reliable autonomous vehicles, which is progress, here’s hoping we will eventually get more autonomous people capable of driving themselves, too.

(Psst, that’s what I’m here for.)


Chip in.

  • Daniel

    I totally agree on everything. As long as they find a decent way to make sure no one gets her/his car hacked. That would be bad. But I’m sure we’ll find a better way than hoping that X billion car owners remember to update their anti-virus software.