Car Corner
Self Driving Cars... Or Driver vs. Passenger

April 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

Last month we touch on the subject of self driving cars. Come on... how many of us have a long commute and wouldn't mind taking a nap, or watching TV or reading the paper on our way to work. Why should all those train/subway riders have all the fun.

I would be surprised if you are reading this and have not heard of Google's self driving car. They have logged hundreds of thousands of miles with a dozen of them (at least, I assume). The recent CES showed off some other initiatives toward the same end. People "riding" in cars to get to work and such.

Last month we talked about electric charging pads in the highway itself, that could charge the car as it went down the highway. It would not take much to add a little intelligence to these charging pads and cars to use those pads to keep track of all the cars using the highway.

Think about that for a second. Google uses a billion sensors for its car to see what obstacles are around it. But like the movie The 6th Day, maybe the car only needs to be autonomous on the highway, and a person drives it to its final destination.

The benefit is simple. Let's say there is an accident, er, I mean a car breaks down on the highway. The charging pads know this because the car stops moving, regardless of why. And it can communicate that with cars miles down the highway to have them slow down... and even alert the "riders."

Sounds great. And sounds (to me) like an easier solution to implement than Google's billion sensors. Google's system will need to communicate with other cars to get any kind of "down the road" view of upcoming issues, or else it just reacts to what the sensors pick up. Again, the charging pads in the road could be the way it does that.

So now we have combined multiple technologies and projects to come up with the semi-self driving, continuously charging electric car. Jackpot.

What about people that like to drive!! What happens when you mix self driving cars with people driven cars? Do you have to eliminate the people to have a system that works? Obviously Google is trying to build a car that can interact with regular cars.

Let's look down the highway (pun intended) into the future. Let's say it's 2033, and we have lots of self driving cars. But I want to drive my 2008 Corvette to work. It is a classic... because a car is a classic when it is 25 years old. Do I have to get in line with all the other self driving cars and take a mind numbing trip to work? That would suck.

Can I just zoom in and out and around these self driving cars... knowing they will not crash into me? That could be fun... until the police ruin it.

Will I have to use a dedicated lane? This is sounding plausible. But how many lanes? Let's assume that we go the way of self driving cars... even without the charging pads to guild them. Would these self driving cars have their own lane, like HOV lanes we have today. Clearly the advantage for this is that if the cars communicate with each other, they can run tighter and faster without risk of accidents.

At what point then do the self driving lanes out number the people driving lanes? At what point do we think about outlawing people driving cars? And if we outlaw people driving cars... why would we need so many different cars. I mean really, who needs a self driving Porsche? Worse, who even wants a self driving Porsche? If you can't drive it, and all cars "follow the leader," there is no reason to have performance cars.

Crap, I don't want to think about that.


What side are you on? Self driving cars are coming. Do you want one? More importantly, do you want it to be the only way you get around? Do you still want to take a twisty road and enjoy driving? Or are you content with becoming a permanent passenger for the rest of your life?