2013-12-06 / Columnists

Boyleing Points

Driving While Insane
By Kevin Boyle

We’re probably insane. Me, you, all of us. You probably didn’t think of yourself this way but you are also wildly courageous. You are a daredevil doing things that people in the future will marvel about. You, yes, you.

Now, before I ‘splain myself, allow me to veer off for a second. Last week I mentioned passive aggressive driving. I didn’t mention how some people ditch the passive part and become Dr. Jekyll behind the wheel. The nicest, most unassuming people, sometimes turn into cursing Neanderthals in the confined comfort of their automobiles. I’ve been given the finger by a lady with a Keep The Christ In Christmas decal on her car.

Ah, but such personality quirks might be going the way of the pet rock. Coming up fast on the entrance ramp is the driverless car.

I know, I know we’ve been waiting for the jet pack for 50 years and we’re no closer to being George Jetson than we were when the cartoon first aired. But driverless cars are here and already legal in Nevada.

And Nevada always points to the future: divorce, gambling, and hangover weekends. If it happens there, it doesn’t stay there.

Driverless cars are controlled by computer. Cars basically talk to each other, monitoring distance, etcetera. Sensors detect what lane you’re in, when to turn, other cars, pedestrians, you name it. One driverless car smoothly made its way down “the crookedest street in the world,” Lombard Street in San Francisco. A test car has already driven more than 250,000 miles without a serious accident. A fender bender was caused by a clueless driver in another car.

Driverless cars will allow people to have another glass of wine, to sleep, to work, to text, all the things people are doing now while behind the wheel. Driverless cars will allow traffic to move more efficiently. Driverless cars won’t take up two parking spots. And don’t forget, it won’t be long before baby boomers – that huge demographic – turn the roads into one big Florida where every other driver is an octogenarian Mister Magoo. In Florida, driving on sidewalks seems optional.

Now, some people would be afraid to get into a car being driven by a computer. Ok, finally, we’re back to the opening paragraph. Yes, it would be a little weird at first. But think about it. Don’t you want a computer driving the other guy’s car? What we’re doing is nuts.

Would you trust your kids with a stranger you passed on a highway? Of course not. Well, aren’t we trusting that stranger to stay alert as they pass in the opposite direction at 60 miles per hour? We drive 4000 pound machines past each other only separated by a yellow line! We are insanely brave. Or just insane.

People in the future will look at us like we all had a death wish.

We’re worried about computers driving and give no thought to the psychopaths, the overtired, the inexperienced, the distracted, and the incompetent drivers that routinely fill the roads? We’re nuts, I tell ya, we’re nuts.

Some people will be holdouts. They won’t want to give up the wheel. But soon enough, it’ll have a stigma, like smoking. People will shoot looks of disdain: you’re still driving? Just like bars got rid of smoking, there will soon be driverless only highways. It’s coming – maybe sooner than we think, maybe sooner than the boardwalk.

For me, driverless cars can’t get here soon enough. I’m guessing the auto manufacturers are already trying to figure out how a car can give the finger to another car. Gotta keep it a little crazy out there.

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