Every now and then we come across the news of “Self Driving Cars (SDRs)” in newspapers, on the internet and elsewhere. Sure we are fascinated by the idea of a car that could drive on its own, knows all the routes (via google maps) and is basically connected to every social media platform. This genre of cars is rigorously in the works and in next couple of years we might expect at least a working prototype to find its application somewhere, for the starts.
As known, Google is working on their self-drive cars like anything, there are numerous videos on YouTube that demonstrate its working and the development process and “Man, that car is smart!”
To put this in perspective, when I see a cyclists riding by the side of the road while I'm driving. Subconsciously I'm aware that the cyclist might accidentally or intentionally jump into my lane. For this reason, I slow down a little just to make sure that I could safely pass him and stop quickly if needed. So, here the software on which this robocar runs on is so smart that it knows this human thought process, certainly with the help of super advanced 360-degree sensors, cameras or whatever. It knows when to stop, it knows that the cyclist might jump in and it probably knows that the manhole is not covered and how to escape it if needed. And mind it, they are improving it each day, coming up with new additions to the same software and making it smarter. I am sure that the system would work better overall as compared to us, as it won’t feel tired and won’t have to worry about the daily life drama encountered by us.
Let’s take the bright side first, such cars will benefit a lot of people, like my grandpa and grandma, differently-able persons and some folks who don’t like to drive like few of my friends. They can also be used as emergency vehicles like ambulances as the driver doesn’t need to be notified or fire fighting vehicles and so on. Moreover, a lot of people would like to buy it simply for its exclusivity and for the reason that they could operate it with their smartphone (Surely smartphone integration is on the manufacturer’s memo).
But on the flip side, first, it will take away the simple pleasure of driving, especially for the new generation. The ones that are born with automatics (dad’s car) or the ones that are driven in child seats, I wasn’t and the majority of people of my generation were ferried in their mom’s arm when they were young. Also, I grew up looking at my elders driving Mahindra Majors and take my word for it, as a kid I just enjoyed looking at the shaky stick of that jeep right in front of my tiny eyes. Also, I loved observing my elders drive. The ferocity with what they pushed that heavy clutch and shifted the long stick made me think that one day I would also shift like this and I do now. That gives me satisfaction and I am afraid what a young child’s thoughts might be now when he/she sees their elders doing nothing but flapping paddle or just steering like in a video game.
Also, ten years down the line, let's just say, apple is out with their SDR car, Google is out with their cost effective SDR car and Tesla come up with something else and buyers also start accepting it. In this case, a certain sect of people could be adversely affected that earn because of cars. For example, taxi drivers will have a hard time keeping up with these, as big cab owning companies with millions of dollars can opt for SDR cars and render a lot of taxi owners jobless. All this because of robots that will do everything right and won't need a salary or stupid emails to clarify things. That, my friends, seems bad.
This reminds me of a conversation from a Will Smith’s movie, “i-robots”, that goes like this
“Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith): So, Dr. Calvin, what exactly do you do around here?
Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan): My general fields are advanced robotics and psychiatry. Although, I specialize in hardware-to-wetware interfaces in an effort to advance U.S.R.'s robotic anthropomorphization program.
Detective Del Spooner (again!): So, what exactly do you do around here?
Susan Calvin (simpler this time): I make the robots seem more human.
Detective Del Spooner: Now wasn't that easier to say?
Susan Calvin: Not really. No.”
Similarly, I believe, the folks at google, apple or Tesla are aiming to make a self-driving car that mimic or even betters the way humans drive. And do we really need them, I would say at some point-Yes, but still at most of the times-Not Really.No. Period.