Here is the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Larry asks: Where is the push for self-driving cars coming from? I’ve never heard anyone say, “gee, I wish I had a self driving car so I didn’t have to drive it myself”. Who’s pushing this phenomenon?
My reply: You are absolutely right about the push; about it not being organic. The pressure is coming from the top down. From – on the one hand – the government, which loves the idea of more control over us (which is what automated cars are really all about) and – on the other hand – from the car industry. Which loves the profits it promises and also because the car industry is now – effectively – an arm of the government. It not only doesn’t fight government mandates – on behalf of buyers – it works overtime to develop new technologies and urge they be made mandatory (to increase profits).
Also their mindset has changed because the culture has changed.
Car companies used to be run by car guys. They are now – with a few exceptions – run by women or men who cater to women, neither of them car guys. They are – regardless of sex – metrosexual city types who could just as easily (and with just as little passion) sell toothpaste.
And that is what they are trying to do with cars – and to us.
. . .
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The counter argument: No one “knew” they needed the Internet either. Since the 1990s the cost of telecommunications on a bitrate basis has dropped something like 99%. Phone calls are free anywhere in the world.
The current golden boys in Silly-con valley are hot to get self-drivers on the road. Only because it will be so deflationary as to make travel a service without the timetable. Yes, it will be the end of car culture, just like the Internet was the end of newspapers and broadcast TV. Once you get the software right there will be all sorts of vehicles on the roads. Some of them will be extremely small, designed to deliver a few packages or dinner. Some will be mobile hotel rooms. Many might be single passenger cars for commuting to work.
But the regulatory environment in the US means adapting existing vehicles, so we’ll get bland, over priced generic vehicles that won’t do anything well. Your toilet paper delivery vehicle doesn’t need airbags, seats or windows, but because the regulations require airbags and whiplash-preventing headrests that’s what it’s going to have.