If you let the robot drive, it may take the most rational route. What fun is that?

January 22, 2016

I met my husband in the early 80s. He had a 1970-something Chevy Nova SS. I’m not that great with car model years. It was drab green but I went out with him anyway. I had a Chevy Malibu that apparently had a combination of 1973 and 1975 parts so it was alway a bit of a conundrum at first for folks. Was it a’73 or a’75? I don’t recall where we landed but I do recall it was bright blue and ticked like a bomb. I bought it for $350 and sold it for $400 after I graduated from college a few years later. I told the guy who bought it that it had ticked like a bomb since I bought it. He thought nothing of it either. After that, I went through a VW and Saab phase followed by a seven-fucking-mini-van-phase. And then back to VWs. I like driving a stick shift. It’s why the minivans were the bane of my existence. My husband, Andy, has been a Toyota guy for a number of years. He doesn’t care for stick shift. Don’t hold either of those things against him. That’s the first part of the story of our cars. The second part is about driving.

Let’s just say that over the past three decades, I’ve learned to just go along with Andy’s desire to take the road less traveled. “I’ve always wanted to try this road,” he’ll say. “Let’s see where this goes. You’re not in a hurry right?” This used to drive me insane. We’ve ended up almost stuck on tiny seasonal access roads during the wrong season. Hungry. Nearly out of gas. In total darkness. Lost for just longer than we wanted. But I’ve also been lucky enough to have witnessed beauty not found on main roads – both in nature and in the human form. Quirky restaurants. Oddities. Knowing Andy makes me richer. Had I went for someone with my driving habits, I’d go from point A to B in the shortest amount of time. To anyone but the driver, it’s as boring as sitting in a self-driving car. And that’s the third part, not driving.

I read the article The Self-Driving Car Is Not What You Think It Is by Brett Berk. It ends…

“If you let the robot drive, it may take the most rational route. But more times than not, rationality is the opposite of humanity.”

And that right there is what I find the most disturbing about self-driving cars. Berk notes, “the self-driving car is also predicated on finding solutions to a multiplicity of dilemmas—societal, social, anthropological, infrastructural, moral, regulatory, human, machine—that we have barely defined, let alone figured out.” Killjoy. So yeah, I need to get over myself but still…as much as I know I would love to sit in the driverless car and read or work or just gaze out the window, who’s going to accidently drive me through a dangerously muddy meadow so I can witness a bunch of snow geese? Will there be a setting for human mode? For Andy? I don’t they’ll be enough room enough for all the computers, servers, and sensors the car would need.

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