Thursday, January 7, 2016

One Cool Prospect With Autonomous Cars

As I wrote last year, I'm not convinced autonomous cars will take over as swiftly as is assumed. It might be possible to ban car companies from producing conventional cars, but it would be politically unfeasible to prevent citizens from driving cars they already own. And that would create a prisoner's dilemma: autonomous cars will never feel comfortable while human drivers are out there strategizing their way around them. If it were all robots, that'd be no problem. But it'll be a travail to reach that point.

Also, as I said in that article, cars are optimized for driving, not riding. Take away the driving aspect, and we'd find ourselves in very uncomfortable passive trnasportation devices. A car would make a terrible train!

But I thought of one cool thing. What if you could go to sleep in your camper or RV, and wake up 500 miles away? Achieving that without the least preparation or staging would be something few human beings (at least, ones over one year of age) have experienced. It would feel one notch away from teleportation!

And once highways are 100% autonomous, speed limits could safely increase, so maybe you'd wake up 800 miles away! Just for one thing, it would be a chowhound's utopia: you might read about a great breakfast joint in Jacksonville, FL, and be there the next morning for pancakes...just like magic!

Combined with my current fascination with airstream trailers (see #7 here), it's a pretty irresistible prospect. Especially if I'm 80 years old (it'd likely take that long to happen anyway), and otherwise not getting around very much.


I haven't heard anyone explain the final 100 yards. Autonomous cars rely on meticulous mapping of every lane of every road and intersection. But nobody maps driveways and parking lots, which are often poorly marked if they're marked at all. So how will my autonomous car park once it arrives?

Could I send my car out to pick up takeout?

If issues of liability, theft, and dangerous/illegal contents can be overcome, would I be able to drive for free if I agree to a couple en-route stops to pick up and drop off packages*? Could I lease out my autonomous car for such work when I'm not using it? Will UPS and FEDEX become obsolete?

Further reading:

Why Autonomous and Self-Driving Cars are Not the Same
If Autonomous Vehicles Rule The World (a good thorough piece by The Economist)

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