Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Why do we need self-driving cars?

Over the weekend I encountered this little nugget on the twitter:

Indeed, what lot of people were clamoring for self-driving cars anyways? Sometimes we get so enamored with new technology (oh my god this car is driving itself!) that we forget to detach and look at the bigger picture. What exactly is the endgame of self-driving cars?

To make a certain few people/companies lots of money.

Because it most certainly isn’t about safety. Motor vehicle fatalities have continued to hover at all-time lows, and vehicles are as safe as ever with hardy crumple zones and a battalion of safety systems (government regulations sometimes work okay). There isn’t really a great need for cars to drive themselves, to take away the innately flawed human element. The push isn’t from the average consumer either, because they couldn’t possibly afford self-driving technology at its nascent. The typical Tesla Model S with its rudimentary “auto-pilot” system costs six figures. Who but the 1% can afford that?

In a capitalist society, people with means are constantly on the chase for the latest Facebook or Uber: exponential returns. In a super mature sector such as automobiles, blue oceans with massive growth opportunity is difficult to come by. Incremental and steady growth is the norm. In order for sizable gains to occur, companies must innovate with something truly new for the public to lust after. See Tesla and EVs.

Makers of televisions have got this down to a science. When the HD revolution happened in the early aughts, people bought TVs in droves to experience the new stunning picture quality. Once that well ran dry, the makers pivoted to 3D (thanks, James Cameron), enticing yet another round of upgrades. When 3D passed on into oblivion as the fad that it is, 4K resolution became the new carrot on the proverbial stick.

In that way, self-driving technology is simply a ploy to make a tremendous amount of money, enticing people to switch out of their “dumb” cars. I don’t see any altruistic reason for its existence, not the least because truly Level 5 autonomous driving is still decades away.

If the powers at be truly wants to further decrease vehicular accidents and death, the best and most efficient way is to require advance training for all drivers. I think we’d be much safer if attaining a driver’s license is made more difficult and strict. Then I wouldn’t need to be on constant lookout for Nissan Altima drivers.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.