Thursday, July 2, 2015

Out of the Driver’s Seat


For those who haven’t seen it, Driving Miss Daisy was a 1989 film based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, telling the story of an unlikely friendship between Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) and her driver (Morgan Freeman). Brilliantly cast. Despite its charm, it’s a film that may never be resurrected, according to Andrew Shanahan.

It’s one of ten things that driverless cars could possibly “eradicate from the face of the Earth.” Other things include the savage, intuitive joy of man and machine (it’s undeniable), rubbernecking (will your driverless car enable your gawking?) and car parks (will they become obsolete, if your driverless car can simply turn around and take itself home?).

Shanahan certainly provides food for thought. Humorous, yes, but also somewhat of a reality check, with driverless cars expected to be part of our lives by the end of the decade. One thing for certain is that they will be a game-changer, but not before we see a significant psychological and cultural shift.

Psychologically, many of us have a strong bond with our vehicles. How much of this bores down to our position in the driver’s seat? And will we be able to relinquish control and allow ourselves to be taken for a ride? An article on The Atlantic sparked a question – can we still call it ‘driving’ when we’re riding in driverless cars? Perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘conducting’, as suggested by Daimler.

Culturally, the introduction of driverless cars will have a considerable impact on society. Will we see the demise of driver stereotypes, or perhaps a heightened sense of judgment regarding different types of cars and their driving habits? What about road rage – where will people direct their anger, and will they need to? What about getting a driver’s license as a rite of passage for teenagers, and the sense of freedom and responsibility that comes with it? Will our daily commute become any less of a monotony, with the ability to concentrate on other things if we’re not driving, or will we simply feel even more useless when we’re stuck in traffic?

And will driverless cars reduce the nearly 1.3 million road fatalities worldwide each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day? Or the additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled?

Now that’s something to rage about.

Image source: govexec.com

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