Dan Rattiner's Stories

Self-Driving Cars: Has Anyone Thought This Through? I’m Not So Sure About It

Eventually, laws may make it illegal for humans to drive at all.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to a time coming up pretty soon where we will have driverless cars. For instance, I have little doubt that soon after we get them we will pass laws making it illegal for humans to drive cars. After all, about 30,000 people a year are killed when humans drive cars in America. It would be crazy to continue to let them drive.

Here’s a few thoughts. At night, you won’t need for the computer driving the driverless car to have to dim the lights when another driverless car approaches. In fact, you won’t need headlights or taillights at all. The computers don’t see. They don’t have eyes. They just sense the approach of things. You will, however, need at least one light on a car that indicates it is driving along in the dark. That would be for nearby pedestrians. Otherwise they might stumble into the side of a car and injure themselves. Probably the best place for it would be high up in the center of the roof. I suggest small green blinking lights. Friendly like.

So many other things inside the car will be unnecessary. They will go the way of the cigarette lighter. You won’t need speedometers. You won’t need a seat for the driver. You won’t need brake pedals or accelerator pedals. You won’t need push-button windows. Computers don’t have fingers.

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And will we have these driverless cars parking in our driveway? Today we own a car. Some people even name them. We pick out its color, kick the tires, look under the hood.

My guess is we won’t have cars in our driveways. Want to go someplace? Call one up on the cellphone. It will be like ordering an Uber. Driverless cars will be everywhere on all the streets so one will pick you up in a minute or two to take you where you want to go. Why own a car, anyway? No registration or inspection stickers, no insurance cards in the glove compartment. Indeed, when driverless cars are king (or queen?) the auto insurance companies will be entirely out of business. Not necessary.

You know what else will be out of business? The Daytona 500. The Indianapolis 500. Who would like to go to watch such a thing with all the danger and heroics and celebrations and all, with all those grinning drivers drenched with champagne at the end? A computer celebrates? Forget it.

Also, there will be no more “please move your car, I have to take out mine,” there will be no more road rage, no more “can I use your car?” So sad.

Now here’s a good thing.

Here in the Hamptons, you won’t need parking stickers to park at the beach. You won’t have huge parking lots overflowing with cars so you have to follow somebody with packages walking to where he parked so you can park there when he pulls out. But you will still be able to go “shopping.” Just get dropped off then picked up again. And packages? Just call a driverless car and throw in your packages and have them taken to your home. That’s what Amazon does.

So there’s lots of hints of things even today that begin to show you the future of getting around.

Now here’s a bad thing. There will be a transition period when people who love driving and have been doing it for years will no longer be permitted to do it. They will suffer from something like post-traumatic stress disorder. They will need psychiatrists. Or they will suffer in silence and just remember the good old days. Or maybe they will act out—go on foot to a parking lot where drivable cars still exist waiting in line to be flattened.

And these people, red eyed from stress and lack of sleep, will choose a silver and black BMW or a red Corvette, get in and take it out for a spin, soon to be noticed by the police and after a 20-mile, 130-mile-an-hour chase, banging off parked driverless cars they will get stopped, tasered, handcuffed, arrested and taken in, all while humming a tune by Chuck Berry.

As I was motivatin’ over the hill,
I saw Maybellene in a Coup de Ville.
A Cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road,
Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford.
The Cadillac doin’ about ninety-five,
She’s bumper to bumper, rollin’ side by side.

Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

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