Google, BMW and Audi are developing driver-less cars. These vehicles will have extremely complex programming to ensure that everything “under the sun” is taken into account to prevent accidents on the road. These cars are being tested now. Initially I thought this would be great. I sometimes develop horrible back pain during the work day or out on errands and my thinking becomes impaired. I know driving home would be dicey, but if I had a driver-less car the danger would be removed. I would not have to worry about getting home.
I think to myself, “Wait…there is computer hacking!” What if some nefarious person or group decides to take over a car’s computer, and there is no switch to turn off the car’s brain? My “bacon” and likely others too would be in considerable danger. Or what if the computer with an update to programming, similar to a GPS, had a virus attached to it? Have these driver-less car companies taken this into account and built in safety devices? Or better yet, will these computers have all the programing they need without updates? Will they be similar to our personal computers that must have anti-virus, malware and anti-trojan programs installed?
I know cars are run by computers now even though we are the drivers. The computer systems in cars these days allow us to lock and unlock the doors by pressing a button. The computer in some vehicles allow people to tap his or her foot on the bumper or near the trunk and open it without needing a key. Other computers offer assistance to park or even sense danger on the road ahead and take control. So yes, car computers are already helping us quite a bit.
But just how comfortable would people be to let go of all control of a car? Would we go as far as to say, ditch driver’s education? These driver-less cars are meant to be programmed to the hilt. Why should anyone have to actually learn to drive manually when the computer will do it all? Consider this. Pilots of commercial airlines who use auto pilot for a majority of the flight, yet something goes wrong and the pilot takes back control of the flight. I can recall two news stories where the pilot landed on frozen rivers. They were Sullenberger in 2011 on the Hudson River, and an unnamed 29 year old pilot in February 2014 who landed near Mackinaw Island, Michigan, saving themselves and others. What if these pilots had not kept up their skills and had to solely depend on auto pilot? The outcomes would not have been good.
So while I think it is nice that driver-less cars are in development to help reduce the rate of human error, distractions, and other dangers, I still believe it is necessary for any future drivers to learn how to drive a car manually. I sincerely hope the manufacturers of these futuristic cars do not take away the ability to take control in the event of an emergency. I know I would want the chance to save myself and protect others from harm if such a thing occurred.
So Google, Audi, and BMW keep that manual control in those driver-less cars please! We human drivers are not perfect, but good old driver training and the ability to take over is still necessary just in case.