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Driverless Cars Could Save A Million Lives Annually

Posted in Car Tech, driving, Pop Culture, Science by Kurt Ernst | April 12th, 2011 | 8 Responses |

According to Sebastian Thrun, the engineer behind Google’s driverless car project, up to one million lives could be saved in the United States each year if we just left the driving to sensor equipped, computer controlled pods. Humans, it seems, aren’t very good at mastering the complex processes (like paying attention to traffic ahead, or yielding the left lane) required to operate a motor vehicle in today’s fast-paced society. Keeping in constant contact with our peers via Twitter and instant messaging has become more important than mastering the skills required to drive a car proficiently, so one or the other has to go. Thrun insists that driverless cars would not only save lives, but would ensure quicker and more efficient transportation, reduce fuel consumption (and hence, pollution) and eliminate traffic jams. His ideas were presented at the recent TED Talks conference, and were backed up by data accumulated over 140,00 miles of autonomous, robot driving.

Come to think of it, how many lives could be saved each year if we banned saturated fat, red meat and alcohol? While we’re at it, cigarettes have to go and so does anything with a high sodium content. Since skin cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths, we should probably ban all outside activities as well, unless the participants wear SPF 80 sunscreen, reapplied at federally-mandated 15 minute intervals. Do you like the brave new world we’re headed for, where all your decisions are made for you as society strives to protect citizens from all dangers, both real and perceived? Do you really want to live in a world without tire-shredding burnouts, speed-limit-be-damned runs up your favorite canyon or the ability to drive a car without robot guidance? Couldn’t a similar number of lives be saved if we actually embraced driver training in this country instead of largely ignoring it? How can we hand down a passion for driving and motorsports to the next generation if the closest they get to driving a real car is on a video game console? I’m not sure there’s a place for me in Thrun’s vision of a perfect society, and that’s more than a little frightening.

Source: Autoguide

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8 Responses

  1. James says:

    this will never work out because alot of people like driving their cars themself

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      What you like is irrelevant in the eyes of government, especially when change is for the “greater good”. They can’t easily ban cars, but they can make driving your own car cost-prohibitive.

  2. Willhelm says:

    natural selection exists for a reason…

  3. Set says:

    I know this is Ridelust, however, I’ll be honest: There are times I would KILL to have an autopilot switch in my car three hour tragiic jams in LA, three hour drives to and from SF every week, or the nine hour annual pilgrimage to SoCal come to mind. I would hate to always have the car drive itself, but there are times it would be the single greatest invention; the speed of the automobile, the mindless ease of public transit.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Set, anything auto-related in Florida happens in Miami, which is a five to six hour drive for me. Since Miami hotels are ridiculously expensive, that typically means driving 10 to 12 hours for a 3 or 4 hour new car introduction. There’s no viable public transportation option, and flying to Miami just isn’t in the budget. I’m still not a fan of autonomous cars, but I sure as hell wish I had other options.

  4. Being a naturally paranoid person I admit I actually do avoid the sun, smoking and cigarettes in order to hopefully live longer. Even if you drive carefully you can still get hit by a drunk driver but also it’s true that you can also get run over crossing the street so I dunno. I read a prediction on another site that someone will most likely get killed in one of these self driving cars and that will set the movement back before the technology is fully embraced.

  5. Perhaps driving will become an activity like skiing, where aficionados actually go to a properly equipped location (a race track) to race their cars rather than racing on the street. This I would support.

    And as much as I like to drive for pleasure, probably greater than 90% of my driving time, I’d rather be in my own individual subway car going directly to my destination.

    Go out on the town, and have a drink? No problem.

    Stay late and too tired to safely drive? No problem.

    Get your work done during commuting time? No problem.

    Fold down the seats and have a quicky on the way to/from Grandma’s house?

    I am starting to like this technology and wish it were here now!