The cars that drive themselves. But only if you drive them too

Have you seen that video of a driverless car that killed a cyclist, with the car “passenger” unable to do anything about it? Personally, I find that video a perfect proof of something I’ve always thought: the huge, BASIC problem with “driverless cars” with a driver that should step in when needed.

The videos shows that the driver was playing with a smartphone instead of looking at the street. Of course!

In order to be really able to effectively “take control whenever it is needed” any driver of any “driverless car” should:

  1. constantly keep her hands on the wheel, feet in front of the brakes, eyes constantly watching all around.. just as if she where actually writing, but without ever moving, or touching anything.
  2. be actually ABLE to do the right thing, or at least less damage than the car would do, if left to itself.

Do you have an idea of how darn boring the first thing would be, regardless of its difficulty? Try to ride half an hour in the passenger seat in those same conditions and “freedom” of movements. Falling asleep already happens when one is actually driving, that is interested, and forced to stay awake. But in those conditions, everybody would either fall asleep after ten minutes, or start playing with a smartphone.

Would you like to be so passive for hours, without texting, eating a snack, stretching your legs… with the awareness that if anything bad happened it would still be your fault?

The second thing is even more unrealistic than the first. If your car drives itself 99% of the time, because that is why you bought it, how on Earth could you be or stay fit to avoid an accident? You would be just as likely to drive the car off the road, or kill even more people, if the last time you drove yourself (that is: the ONLY one, in the future) was in driving school.

Human Error? Sure, but WHERE, and WHEN?

The cars that drive themselves. But only if you drive them too /img/tempe-self-driving-car-driver.jpg
Sit STILL!!! But WITHOUT falling asleep. Or touching anything, including your phone. Even if you are NOT driving. Now stay like that, for a few hours. Aren't you HAPPY now?


Bah. Endless tripes on the mythical “trolley problem”", and nobody asking how “driverless” cars like those would make things worse… if they just didn’t kill any interest for staying inside them. Regardless of whatever interface there is between the car and its “emergency driver”. If the only sure thing is that you must continue to spend two hours of your life every day trapped into commuting, wouldn’t you like to do it in the way that is less tiring, less boring and less expensive? And all we get instead is messages like:

“Relax! You must not drive anymore. You must just sit still less comfortably than before, but just as ready to get sued as soon as something bad happens. Even if you just spent some thousands dollars in sensors designed to safely drive by themselves”.

If you ask me, a car that “drives itself, as long as YOU remain awake and uncomfortable to avoid problems” seems as marketable as an electric mixer that can only be powered by a hand-powered generator.

Therefore, the real and most important human error behind any project of “driverless cars with an emergency driver” seems the one at the commercial and marketing level. Do the car executives behind such projects really believe they can sell more than a few thousands worldwide of such scams?