The self-driving car is on the near horizon. In August 2012, Google announced that they had automated 10 cars that had completed over 300,000 miles accident-free. In April 2014, they announced that they had driven nearly 700,000 miles. In that time, there were only two accidents, neither of which was the fault of the car. In one, the car was involved in a crash while being driven manually; in the other, the car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. Automated cars use radar, sensors, GPS and a computer to perform the functions of a human driver, only better.
In May 2014 Google revealed a new prototype of a driverless car that had no steering wheel, no gas pedal or brakes, and was 100 percent self-contained. Automotive experts say it won’t be too long before driverless cars are available to the general public and in common use on the road.
Those of us who have GPS in our cars and are used to hearing the lady say things like, “In a quarter mile make a left turn onto Grand Avenue” or “At the next opportunity make a legal U-turn” won’t be too surprised when a ride in a driverless car goes something like this:
I get into the back seat with my briefcase and newspaper.
Me: “Good morning, Mercedes. How do you feel about going for a spin?”
Automobile: “I’m gassed up and ready to go. You’re up early. Where are we going?”
Me: “I have to be in Tucson this afternoon. Should we take the freeway?”
Automobile: “I don’t think so. It’s already after 6 o’clock, we’re still in Sun City West, and we’ll be in the rush hour. Traffic on the freeways will be terrible, and we can’t use the HOV lane. I suggest we take city streets and pick up I-10 past the airport.
After we’ve gone a little way:
Automobile: “There are some doughnuts in the refrigerator, and coffee if you want to heat it up.”
Me: Thanks, that’s very thoughtful of you.”
I warm up the coffee, add cream, eat a couple of doughnuts, read the headlines in the newspaper, then doze off. A little later, while we’re driving through Phoenix:
Automobile: “Have you been paying attention to the political polls lately?”
Me: “Not too much. Why?”