Every day, human drivers create all sorts of obstacles on the road, including traffic jams, rubbernecking, and road rage. The world’s top automotive engineers have studied the problem for years, and asked a very innovative question:
What if machines could do all that for us?
And not just the rubbernecking and bird-flipping, by the way. Driving, too! It’s why major automobile makers are making massive investments in driverless car technology, as General Motors did this week when it acquired Strobe, a company focused on autonomous cars.
Mechanical and civil engineers are certain that machine-controlled vehicles can impressively correct so many driving deficiencies created by human error, which range from wasting fuel to causing fatal accidents.
And surely machines will also be more efficient than humans in their bird-flipping and rubbernecking, although those driving mainstays haven’t been specifically addressed by the engineering community.
One negative consequence of driverless cars would be the loss of jobs in the trucking and livery businesses. Although they aren’t glamorous, driving jobs with Lyft or Greyhound or Penske Trucking provide employment to blue collar workers, graduates with a side-hustle, and actors killing time between the four auditions they get in a calendar year.
Social scientists and cultural critics acknowledge these job losses — as well as the moral dilemma of putting decisions like “which way to swerve?” in the hands of machines — but many argue they are a needed tradeoff for the benefits of driverless cars, such as lowering carbon emissions or permitting people to work or sleep during their commutes.
It mimics the tradeoff that occurred when print media migrated online, which saved vast amounts of paper and fuel, but which killed a lot of jobs in the backpage escort ad industry. Or when elevators became button-operated, which saved time but eliminated jobs for crank operators and the people who designed their amusing outfits.
But the driverless future is still that — the future — so all the pros and cons of the current driving industry will remain for now. In other words, get that bird-flipping in while you still can!