Autonomous technology isn’t going away: this much you already know. Lane-keeping systems, blind spot monitoring, and parking assistance systems are becoming standard features on new vehicles. But what’s around the corner? Is autonomous technology signalling the death of the driver?
Current and Future Tech
GM, for example, has recently partnered with IBM to combine OnStar with the Watson supercomputer (jeopardy, not chess). They’re calling the result OnStar Go, the first “cognitive mobility platform” in the automotive industry. Per GM, OnStar Go can help with things like “avoiding traffic when you’re low on fuel, then activating a fuel pump and paying from the dash; ordering a cup of coffee on the go; or getting news and in-vehicle entertainment tailored to your personality and location”. Personally, the idea of my car prescribing Michael Bublé for an angry Monday commute intrigues me. However, I can imagine some drivers want less distractions, less intrusion, and a purer driving experience. Will they be able to find it in 20 years?
Death of the Driver
Henrik Christensen, from UC San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute, has made a startling prediction. He says that “kids born today will never get to drive a car.” By the time they’re old enough, autonomous cars will have overthrown their manual ancestors. Whether or not Christensen’s prediction will hold true even in places like Saskatchewan, I can’t say. Ice, snow, extreme cold, and scattered populations will challenge autonomous vehicles. At the very least, by that time, things like the Forward Collision Alert, available across the 2017 GMC lineup, will have become a baseline standard. The driver will have few, if any, responsibilities. When automakers deploy vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V), cars will scan the streets in real time to avoid hazards and maintain safe driving distances. This, in turn, will allow roads and highways to become narrower, saving space in a congested world. Some drivers (Will Smith in I, Robot, for one) will always prioritize motoring passion over convenience. But it’s not hard to imagine “manual driving” being outlawed at some point considering autonomous cars will make fewer errors than us.
Drive While You Can
While I can’t answer that, I can say that we’re decades from complete autonomy on our roads. Until driverless vehicles can travel safely from Cupar to Regina in blowing snow, human drivers aren’t going anywhere. And, for now at least, technology is actually making life better for drivers who like to drive. Take a spin in a Cadillac CTS-V– with Magnetic Ride Control, for example. You’ll won’t be excited for autonomous cars to take over after that kind of thrill. So, enjoy the road before the death of the driver.
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