Traffic in the large metropolitan areas of the world can be a trying test of one’s nerves. Paris, for instance, is infamous for its chaotic traffic, where the time lost while commuting is quite counterproductive. In probably a large number of cases, it’s the inadequacy of human drivers that causes the clogging of streets. Perhaps the efficient eyes of a computer could be a remedy for the human dependence on cars and proneness to accidents.
Traffic is caused by two factors: there exist too many cars, and human drivers are not always reliable. A computer could potentially have a shorter reaction time than a human being. Even the best-trained drivers will have a slower response time in case of an emergency. Google and the State of California believe to have found the solution: self-driving cars as seen in the movie Minority Report.
With over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving logged, the Google car fleet has a better mileage-to-accidents ratio than the average Californian. Alcohol-related accidents present the largest threat on Californian roads. A computer would never be drunk or have a hangover. It’s a sad fact that many young people forget the hazard of drunk driving. Here in Sweden, there’s a zero tolerance law, which seems to be quite effective. In a case of such an infraction, the fine and penalty would be quite high.
Instead of investing in expensive, self-driving technology, though, I believe in a better public transportation network. The government shouldn’t be cutting taxes only on electric cars, but also on the increased use of buses, for instance. In Minority Report, we see a very cool implementation of self-driven cars. However, there still exist cars that humans can drive themselves, which would probably be a luxury. While most of us would sit in similar-looking vehicles, members of high society would consider it a privilege to do their own driving.
Google hopes that this partnership with the Californian government will help make the self-driving concept more likely to be adopted elsewhere. Implications of this technology are much larger than most can expect, though. As seen in the video above, a self-driving car could help those who might otherwise have a limited capacity for driving to enjoy the convenience and comfort of personal transportation. Individuals with impaired sight, for instance, could take advantage of this mobility.
Would you trust a computer? This certainly requires a little trust, and we humans have a hard time trusting our own kind sometimes. Now Google wants us to trust a machine that drives us, and we have no say in the matter. A computer cannot become sleepy, and it cannot be distracted by an argument or a landmark. Instead, we can engage in deep conversations, be astonished by scenery as we drive by, and be distracted by loved ones. Computers are ever-diligent and obedient. That would be the beauty of a computerized vehicle.
Personally speaking, it would be a welcome change, especially in Gothenburg where I live. Traffic here can get quite heavy; whoever is responsible for traffic engineering should be fired. This is some of the worst street layout I have ever seen. Without a GPS, it’s impossible to find your way. A Google car would make it so much simpler.