Robot, please take the wheel



I’m a backseat driver. In fact, I’m the type of driver who makes driving recommendations to my fellow motorist, even when they can’t hear me. I’m a below average driver and I know there are many drivers on the road who don’t need to be there. That’s why I advocate for self-driving car or the autonomous car. Imagine the day when instead of sneaking a quick text message at a light, you can text the entire commute. Spend time online, playing games and reaching your destination safely and perfectly parallel parking, too. Google has been developing the driverless car and so has Carnegie Mellon University and a number of car makers. It is expected that by 2020, a lot of cars on the roads will be without a driver. These autonomous cars will revolutionize the roads, make them safer, find the quickest route and be able to communicate with other cars, pedestrians and bikers. Drivers pose so much risk on the road. About 93 percent of accidents are due to human error, according to Prof. Raj Rajkumar at Carnegie Mellon University. So why don’t we just take the human driver element out of the picture? I think the simple answer is because as humans, we want to have control. We like the act of driving or at least we like to put our trust behind whoever is behind the wheel. But remember that the person behind the wheel can be tired, sleepy, looking at something else and possibly drunk. In 2011, there were 32,000 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control. Of those, 10,000 died in the hands of alcohol impaired drivers and another 2.6 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency rooms for injuries after a car wreck. Computerized cars, equipped with radars, lasers, cameras and satellite technology may not solve all accidents, but I trust that they will be able to minimize accidents and will make less mistakes than us. Sure there are things humans can do better than machines, but driving — I think I’ll leave that to the robots, while I make plans for the weekend on my phone. This article appeared in the July 10 edition of the Forsyth Herald.

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