The self-driving car is going to have profound effects on our cities and our society. It could be wonderful, as there may well be a tenth as many cars; in our cities, parking spaces and parking garages will disappear as the cars don’t stop, they go pick up somebody else or do an Amazon sushi delivery. Happy hour will be fun again as the car is the designated driver. Everyone, the young and the old, will have mobility.
Or maybe not so wonderful for our cities. Where now people hate their commute, the slog to the suburbs, Allison Arieff writes in the New York Times that “If you can read your iPad, enjoy a cocktail or play a video game while commuting, time spent in the car becomes leisure time, something desirable. Long commutes are no longer a disincentive.” Our cities will empty out of everyone who can afford the Google car as commute times become irrelevant. Pour a martini and sit back with a movie; the google car is a big comfy moving chair.
And like it or not, it is coming down the road straight at you. Google has just announced the first real build of their self-driving car. They note "it has real headlights" although it doesn't need them to see. It also has a steering wheel, because the government insisted. They note:
We’re going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year. Our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn. Happy holidays!
The Oatmeal goes for a ride
Meanwhile, Matthew Inman, AKA the Oatmeal, got to try one out and was impressed, particularly with their cute design.
Google's new fleet was intentionally designed to look adorable. Our brains are hardwired to treat inanimate (or animate) objects with greater care, caution, and reverence when they resemble a living thing. ...By turning self-driving cars into an adorable Skynet Marshmallow Bumper Bots, Google hopes to spiritually disarm other drivers. I also suspect the cuteness is used to quell some of the road rage that might emerge from being stuck behind one of these things.
He notes that the technology could transform the lives of the elderly and that " this technology could make our lives so much better."
And whether we want to or not, we shall see if he is right.