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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Autonomous Cars

I know what most of you are going to say. Riding in the back of a car, no matter how fantastic its Nurburgring time is or how quickly it can do the quarter mile, is boring.
Any true petrolhead will say that he or she has a similar opinion and that sitting anywhere inside a vehicle apart from just behind the steering wheel is tedious. Which is why they will also say that they truly hate the advent of automated driving and hope that driverless car will never become a thing.

I must confess that my way of thinking wasn't that much different until recently. “What's up with these autonomous cars, aren't they like horizontal elevators? Elevators aren't fun,” or something along those lines.

But then it hit me. A similar thing happened quite a few years ago when experiencing a lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission in a Porsche made me embrace the lack of a clutch pedal in a powerful car instead of hating it with a passion like before.

Getting back to how autonomous cars don't mean the end of the world, I was sitting in morning traffic a while ago and noticed how bad most drivers are for the zillionth time.

And I don't mean “bad” as in they can't control their vehicles and occasionally hit things, but in the sense that they make commuting unsafe, boring and most of all longer for everyone else on the road.

Most traffic lights are positioned at a high enough distance from the ground, meaning that they should be visible from several cars away. Why is that? Well, good visibility is a pretty important safety aspect in general, not just when driving, don't you think?

Despite that, a lot of commuters enter in a sort of autopilot mode on their way to or from work, especially if they're using a similar route everyday. Most of them are about as phlegmatic as a piece of furniture whenever they drive for reasons other than pleasure, thus ruining the experience for everyone else.

This is where cars with autonomous driving functions would probably make the biggest difference and pretty much why I fully encourage their imminent arrival. Heck, it doesn't matter if you own a BMW M4 with a manual transmission or a Lotus Elise, you are still prone to start picking your nose at a traffic light instead of paying attention to when the light goes green.

Just think of how much time it would cut from your boring daily commute if every single car in an entire row would start and stop at the same time. The age of fender benders would also end, while you could use that saved time putting on makeup, fixing your hair or playing with any orifice on your head. It would be just like now, only much safer and, most of all, fun!

Nobody's saying that autonomous cars should only be horizontal elevators - modern day appliances that only take you from A to B without involving you in any way. I've started to think about them as being more like an electronic keyboard with preset songs. Sure, if you have talent you can try and emulate a Jean Michel Jarre song using your very own fingers, but if you only want to sit back and take in a perfectly played song, you can also let the keyboard play it by itself.

From this perspective, I wouldn't even consider a driverless Pagani or Ferrari as blasphemous, as long as they also have a “manual mode” for all the time that is not being spent in stop-and-go traffic. It's not like those rich Koenigsegg owners enjoy being extra careful with curbs whenever they show off their rides in Monaco.

You might call me a bit childish for only thinking about decongested traffic and the lack of fender benders good-enough reasons for welcoming autonomous cars into our lives. Deep down I'm pretty sure that everyone feels the same, even if they don't know it yet.

Just make all the cars in the world fully autonomous inside congested cities and everything will be alright. At the same time, apart maybe from the very safe Autobahn, make them autonomous whenever they enter a highway, and the destination has been typed in.

Too many people are already doing a lot of unsafe things behind the wheel, and it's human nature to be careless. Instead of making them take a crowded and smelly bus to their destination, let them use their own cars, but without robing everyone else from the joy of driving and/or rowing through the gears whenever the situation allows it.

 
 
 
 
 

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