It’s 2034. You’re driving along, minding your business, when suddenly you see the one thing that every motorist fears – red and blue lights flashing in your rearview camera. You’re being pulled over, but it’s not for speeding. It’s for driving.
Welcome to the roads of tomorrow—a place where human error is non-existent and the roads are automated freeways of locomotive perfection. There is no more traffic, no more accidents, and most importantly, no more fatalities.
By 2020, GM, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi all plan to have autonomous “self-driving” cars available to the public. Google has been working on the technology for almost a decade now, and autonomous cars are already street-legal in California, Nevada, Florida, and Washington DC.
Cars have been making amazing leaps in technology recently, but the autonomous leap will no doubt be the biggest and most crucial in shaping vehicles of the future. But with autonomous cars, the devil is in the details. Although the autonomous car’s computer will be able to navigate and drive like a professional, there is still the question of road practicality. The most efficient way to implement these cars would be to introduce a set of algorithms in the form of a transportation grid. In this case, every single computer on the road would work together in order to navigate all the individual cars through traffic as part of an efficient, collective whole. When you want to go somewhere, you would simply enter the data into your car’s computer. The data is then uploaded into the collective grid, and your destination is worked into the system to move you as one with the rest of traffic. By working together in this fashion, traffic would virtually be non-existent. Cars would have no need to drive slow or stop, even in high volume. The only real reason traffic exists in the first place is because of human error.
But what happens to the human driver in this scenario? The answer is simple, yet grim—they do not exist. In order to maintain this utopia of perfect locomotion, human error cannot be allowed to interfere. There is no human that is incapable of error, no matter how good a driver they may be. For the sanctity of the collective grid itself, danger and unpredictability completely undermine the purpose of such an algorithm. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death for human beings. It only makes sense that our species would evolve out of one of the deadliest aspects of society. Sure, there will be heavy resistance, but ultimately it simply won’t make sense to endure danger when the technology eliminates it.
Horses were once considered a necessity for daily life. Then the car came around and did away with our dependency on animal-based transportation. Perhaps the non-autonomous car will go the same way. After all, what would be the point of having a car that wasn’t street legal? Unless you are wealthy enough to take such a car to a private track, it holds no value or practicality for you as a driver. In today’s world, horses (in America) are largely considered to be an expensive luxury. Perhaps the same will be true with non-autonomous cars and human driving. It could become a privilege for the wealthy to do on private roads and tracks, rendering the act of driving as an old nostalgia of a different age.
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