Get ready to give up your keys, human drivers may face driving bans in as little as five years as self-driving cars come online. Planners are evaluating a stretch of the I-5 in Washington for a possible human driver ban. If practical, it will spread
The experts agree, the problem with self-driving cars is the people, not the computers. They have reasoned that if people are removed from the road, the cars will be able to drive safely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has now recognized Google’s self-driving computer as the “driver” in their autonomous vehicles. Thanks to this decision, Google’s cars don’t need a human operator at all. With this requirement gone, the cars can now drive themselves, even without any human on board.
So far, driverless cars all have people at the wheel, ready to take over in an emergency. However, the reports are the same. The computers are faster, see better, and perform better than humans do by every metric. The few accidents which have involved self-driving cars have been attributed to human error.
The next step is to designate lanes for driverless vehicles. These lanes will allow for the safe passage of these cars free from human interference. The lanes may also be more efficient than human-packed lanes stuffed with traffic and relative chaos. The special lanes will be just one incentive offered to drivers who make the switch to driverless. Other incentives will include tax rebates and insurance discounts.
Few people would balk at these changes, they are natural and understandable, and won’t limit personal choice and freedom at the start. But soon after driverless cars prove themselves, the pressure for all people to change will grow. Human drivers will be forced off road as driverless zones grow and as costs associated with driving yourself rise.
The greatest problem with driverless vehicles is the loss of control and freedom that may come later. A driverless car’s travel will be fully documented at all times. You will not be able to travel anywhere without leaving a searchable record of your activity. Where you went, how long you were there and who was with you, will all be catalogued for better or worse.
Later, if the government should make a decision to restrict driving, enforcement of such an edict would be simple. Your car will not start after a certain time. It may be your property, but your car will be a brick until the time the powers that be decide to switch it back on.
Some will lament the handover of human autonomy and our growing dependency on sophisticated systems for survival. However, we have already rendered ourselves dependent on these systems. How many people can survive without electricity? We have forgotten how to make candles. How many people can hunt, kill, clean and prepare an animal for food? Who can grow their own food and preserve it properly for a year?
Who remembers how to ride a horse or is willing to walk for days to reach a faraway destination? Getting people to walk to their own mailbox is already a source of complaint.
The world is changing. The changes may bring great convenience, but with those conveniences comes a loss of autonomy and a risk of danger should those systems we depend on fail.
You can give up your keys, but be aware of what you’re handing over when you make that decision.
By Marshall Connolly