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Downfall of the Human Drivers, or How Technology Is Making Them Redundant

That subtle, insidious change in the air, can you feel it? That’s what redundancy feels like. Like an aged-out employee, who is still able to perform tasks satisfactorily but can no longer keep up the pace, we are being pushed into the background, relegated to the status of an accessory.
As Tyler Durden would say in Fight Club, “Things you own end up owning you.” Granted, he was proselytizing against capitalism and consumerism, arguing for identity investment instead. But his words still apply: we put so much money, thought and effort into making our cars smarter that we’re being left behind.

The future of fully driverless cars is nearly here, after a decade of technological advances that have happened in leaps and bounds. At this moment, the thought is daunting, with a large majority of drivers feeling as if they would never embrace a fully autonomous vehicle because it would mean they would no longer be drivers, but passengers in the driver’s seat.

The vast majority of studies conducted on the topic reveal that most drivers are positive autonomous vehicles will boost on-the-road safety and reduce stress levels. At the same time, they would rather not give up the “right” to take over from the computer when they wanted to.

It’s human nature not to want to relinquish control. Car culture is strong in most territories, though perhaps nowhere as strong as in the U.S. Cars are part of our daily life and of our family, they have evolved from a mere means of transportation to an indispensable object we oftentimes personalize. Cars are family members, if family members stopped nagging at Christmas gatherings and took better care of you without the need to throw it in your face with the first argument.

And cars are about to go on their merry way, leaving us behind.

All overtly dramatic proclamations aside, this decade has been marked by a shift in paradigms, thanks to technology. The cars of today are not the cars we learned driving in when we were kids, back when power-steering on a passenger car was more or less a luxury and you ended up with sore arms from making a 3-point turn. Thanks to technology, they come with so many bells and whistles you probably don’t even know them all, on top of entertainment capabilities, inter-connectivity and autonomous features.

Today’s cars are meant to make your life easier whichever way possible through technology. They will keep you in your lane, help you park, come to fetch you when summoned, tell you the road conditions or when something needs checked or changed. They will even drive for you on straight roads, as long as you keep your hands on the wheel. They will let you stream your favorite shows, listen to your favorite music, bring your office with you when you leave work.

In a few more years’ time, technology will soon push us out altogether. Today’s driver has it easy, compared to how it was 10-20-30 years ago. Tomorrow’s driver won’t have to drive at all, having been relegated to passenger status, made redundant.

That’s just how it should be.

Smart cars, autonomous cars are meant to solve all kinds of issues – even if they don’t deal with our fear of relinquishing control. After all, they’re cars, you can’t expect them to care for you as you do for them. But they will keep us safer, avoid accidents, lower road rage incidents, have a smaller carbon footprint, be more efficient in every aspect (save money, time, effort), improve congestion, reduce stress. Tomorrow’s car will help us find ourselves again, by creating a safe space for us inside, a third internet living space, in which we can do whatever we want.

It’s normal for man to feel reticent to the idea of not having to keep his hands on the wheel while driving, or being forced to give up that feeling of the machine moving underneath him at a single gesture. Such a concept takes time adjusting to, as all changes that affect human behavior do. The good news is that we still have years to go before the human driver is made completely redundant, as we’re still at Level 2 Autonomy out of 5 possible and there are many issues inherent with driverless tech that need to be addressed (not to mention legislative hurdles).

Much like it happened at the beginning of the 20th century, when people scoffed at the idea of the “horseless carriage” replacing horse, carriage and train transportation, when robots become humanity’s drivers, man will simply adapt. Because that’s the way the wheel turns.

Editor's note: PS: Since you've made it this far, you should know this article is just a piece of Ten Years in Ten Stories, our word puzzle celebrating the memorable bits of the ending decade.

 
 
 
 
 

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