Getting tired of the mind-numbing, life sucking, soul-draining, stop the world, I wanna get off daily commute? Hang tight!!! The fix is coming faster than you can get from zero to 60!
Ahhhh … the Dallas North Tollroad. It’s a part of my daily routine and there’s nothing quite like sitting in traffic to have the life sucked out of you.
I long for the days of self driving cars so the time I spend getting from point A to point B isn’t a complete waste of time but is rather a chance to be productive, relax or bug my fellow commuters for a little Grey Poupon.
Fortunately, with the recent advancements in autonomous vehicles, that day may be closer than you think. And this episode was prompted by recent news from none other than Tesla.
If you haven’t heard, Tesla Motors, purveyors of fine electric vehicles, announced that their cars could be driving themselves NOW. Founder Elon Musk went on to say that they would be rolling them out not in a few years, but in the next three months.
Or did they????
Well…here’s the catch. What they actually announced is that they’ll be rolling out a software update that will enable an auto-steering function that will keep the car in its lane and manage lane changes. So the first step here isn’t a big one as there are already cars that have lane assist technology. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction.
So how is all this possible and how far will they take it? Well, every Model S built since October is equipped with radar, sonar and other hardware needed for autonomous driving. Combine that capability with navigation, GPS, and real-time traffic systems and all that’s missing is the software needed to bring it all together.
Then there are the legal issues. Even if the technology is there, different states have different laws, or lack thereof, governing autonomous vehicles. How regulators will react to the sudden onslaught of autonomous autos remains to be seen.
So we may not be living in an era of completely self driving cars quite yet but my guess is they’ll be here sooner than you think. And if our insurance companies have anything to say about it, they’ll become mandatory in the most congested areas almost as fast.
So, why does a car-guy like me, who by all accounts loves to put his hands on the steering wheel and foot on the gas, love the idea of autonomous cars so much?
One, because a lot of daily driving is just routine and boring. And when the highway is bumper-to-bumper, the fun part of the driving experience goes away so I’d rather be doing other things. Which leads to…
Number Two, safety. Let’s face it, drivers are more distracted than ever and the basics of driving are tasks that turn out to be pretty well suited to a computer. Like it or not, better than a human in most cases.
And Three, it’s just plain fun to watch technology advance as fast as it is. Especially in ways that impact our daily lives.
One of the chief concerns among prospective owners of all-electric cars is keeping the thing charged when you’re traveling long distances. It’s a pseudo-psychosis known as “Range Anxiety.” Let’s face it the last thing you want to do is run out of electricity on the side of the highway in the middle of Nebraska.
So as a part of the forthcoming Tesla software update the Tesla Model S will help you plan trips based on available charging stations and will constantly re-evaluate range and likelihood of running out of power, and make recommendations on when you can stop. If the car thinks it’s likely to run out of power and you decide to carry on, you’ll have to double verify.
Electric or otherwise, here’s my prediction. By 2020, most of us will be doing most of our driving with our hands off the wheel, and for some, sooner than that. Much sooner. However, if you happen to remember that you watched this 5 years from now and I turn out to be wrong, feel free to come back and leave a comment.
Drive safe and I’ll see you online!