Autonomous cars are in the news almost daily for the increasingly complex tasks that they are programmed to master. What started off as short drives on closed tracks where the car couldn’t go crazy and smash into things has evolved into drives on the open road with real people and real cars all around. The lastest achievement in autonomous driving is a cross-country road trip, which is impressive and a little sad.
It’s impressive because making it safely from San Francisco to New York City is a feat even for a car without any fancy technology and a lowly human driver at the wheel. Credit for this 3,400-mile journey across 15 states goes to Delphi who developed the technology that made this drive possible.
They packed it all into a 2014 Audi SQ5, but the car is really irrelevant. It could have been any car that they tricked out with self-driving technology. That tech includes windshield-mounted cameras to see lane markings, road signs, and traffic lights. There is also mid-range radar at the corners, front, and back plus two additional units in the front and back that are long-range.
Laws currently require a driver in the driver’s seat at all times, so there was a human behind the wheel for all 3,400 miles just in case something went wrong and said human needed to take the wheel. Delphi says that 99 percent of the time the car drove itself with the human only needed when the car left the highway and ventured onto city streets. Cool.
That’s the impressive part, but the sad part is that I don’t want my car to drive itself. I don’t want to be able to sit there and do nothing on a road trip. I want to drive my car. I like driving and I don’t understand at all why anyone would want to sit there like a bump on a log and just stare out the windows.
There’s autonomous tech that I like, but it’s on a far smaller scale. The forward collision warning systems that include braking are brilliant when you’re not paying attention. Heck, it saved the neck of our own John Goreham which is proof.
The thing is, there’s a big difference between helping and taking over and I don’t want my car to take over. This trip is an amazing technological accomplishment, but I fear our robot overlords. I don’t want a self-driving car. What about you?