2 Sep 2014

Why Driverless Cars May Be A Good Thing


I don't particularly like the idea of driverless cars.  For a start, where's the fun in it? If I wanted to travel in a carriage that I had no control over I'd use public transport but, seeing as I have a highly tuned sense of smell and like the idea of personal space, I don't.

I like to control a car, I like to steer it, use the throttle and brakes, play with the limits of adhesion and scare myself every now and again.

I like to be able to have my own things in my car and to play my own music. I like the fact if the sun is shining I can reach for my sunglasses and put them on, because they live in the door pocket. I like the fact that if somebody else is going too slowly I can overtake them and I like the fact I can travel by varying routes to get to the same location just for the hell of it.

Then there's the safety aspect of driverless cars.  Even brand new cars go wrong, never mind old ones.  Accelerators stick, steering goes wrong, wheels fall off.  Steering is the last bastion of human control. We have brake and throttle by wire and adaptive cruise control and these are fine but steer by wire, no thanks.

Having said that we already have a car on the road with no mechanical link between the road wheels and steering wheel, the Nissan Q50.  That scares the shit out of me.  What if, as millions of cars do every year, it goes wrong?  You can deal with a runaway car by the application of common sense, sadly something missing in many drivers, but not with one that suddenly veers to one side, and possibly into me.  I don't like that.

Computers and electronics are brilliant but they are built by humans and humans are fallible, and sometimes stupid.

So, I don't like driverless cars.  But I hate motorways even more.

Not motorways when they're clear you understand, but when they're crushingly, hatefully, awfully slow.  When the traffic goes from 70mph to 0mph and back again every half mile.  

I don't know about you but I feel physical pain when the car(s) in front of me are travelling slower than I want to go.  My toes curl, my chest tightens, my hands grip the wheel tight.  My son and I often joke about the invisible rocket launcher we keep in the car for blasting the road ahead clear.  

Yes, impatience is not a virtue and it's rather selfish but I can't help it.  At least I don't tailgate. I'd rather leave space in front so I've an escape route in case the numpty behind has slower reactions than  a teenager at 7am.

And this is why driverless cars can be a good thing.  So everyone else can use them.  Then we wouldn't have random braking, random steering inputs and random pulling out of junctions in front of you.

Just think, lanes one and two on the motorway would be full of cars moving at a decent pace, with a sensible distance between each one.  The slower drivers could cruise with the HGVs in lane one whilst we who can drive properly would sit in lane two then hop into lane three when we like.

In fact the motorways would be so safe we could happily raise the speed limit to something more sensible, like 100mph.

Driverless cars?  I'm all for them.

By Matt Hubbard