Self-Driving Car
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Look, No Hands! The Arrival of the Self-Driving Car

Self-Driving Car Green Technology 

Screaming headlines tout hands-free, self-driving, autonomous vehicles. The “smartcar/truck/bus/aircraft/train/ship” evolution has arrived. The natural question is to ask, “Why?” What problem does a driverless car solve?

A business anthropologist I’m guessing spoke to automakers about generational priorities. “The Greatest Generation” of World War II sacrificed so much. Returning from the War newly minted civilians bought big heavy cars with tail fins, Naugahyde covered seats, Corinthian leather interiors (coined by an ad agency for Chrysler luxury vehicles), automatic shift, and speed. Alfred E. Neuman ruled the 1950s with the slogan, “What, Me Worry?”

Google self-driving car project

Baby boomers and Generation X (the latch key children from daycare and divorce) bought sleek and fast cars that answered their conundrum “what’s in it for me?” The car became a tool of their freedom, their safe space, when the bathroom was occupied. The next cohort, Generation Y, bought more sophisticated and technologically inspired cars in new colors reflecting society’s diversity. Powerful Hummers, SUVs, and family vans were equipped with an entertainment center, satellite radio, built in movie, cassette and CD players, TVs, antennas hidden in windshields, computerized gadgets and engines. The planet might witness less gas used when the lead foot of drivers is replaced by a computer chip, but knowing man’s thrill for speed it’s unlikely.

Can smartcar owners trust carmakers with their lives when carmakers cannot be trusted to honestly report pollution emissions and gas mileage? The planet might witness less gas used when the lead foot of drivers is replaced by a computer chip, but knowing man’s thrill for speed it’s unlikely.

Volkswagen and other manufacturers are suspected of altering emissions data for decades. Tesla immediately reported the death of Joshua Brown in his autopilot car to the government, but allegedly delayed for eight weeks to notify the media or mention his death in its securities filings until a stock offering worth $2B was complete. Think Pinto, as one of my business students reminded the class.

The P.R. people for carmakers are already on the hunt to rebrand hands-free smartcars. The new sobriquet is the more sophisticated and passionless Advanced Driver Assistance Systems vehicles. Sounds like Corinthian leather.

The greatest automobile innovations of our time are enabled by electronics. The smartcar already employs advanced consumer technology for toll way drive-through, parking payments, Bluetooth, and mapping. Government vehicles and drones read computer chips, so they can easily spot and boot cars for unpaid tickets, locate stolen vehicles, and blow up fugitives from space.

The vision and chip making microcontroller and processor companies will be far more lucrative for small investors than autonomous smartcar manufacturers. These folks have insulated themselves by creating strategic partnerships with many other companies, and their products are used across many different industries. A new bus made in China in which I ride from home to work beeps whenever another vehicle is too close warning the driver to be careful.

Some problems hands-free driverless cars address in answer to the original question, “Why?” are smartcars are necessary for

  • Personal care: Apply makeup, change clothes, change a diaper, eat breakfast and snack, spoon hot soup, or turn around scream and yell at the kids in the back so they can see your scrunched up face.
  • Education: Finish homework, reading the book, newspaper, and emails.
  • Entertainment: Play a keyboard or guitar no longer needing to steer with one hand, crochet and finish that sweater, watch a good video.
  • Socialization: Party, smoke, drink-and-“drive,” do drugs; listen to loud music with headphones; avoid police detection, because the car does not speed or swerve. If police happen to ask the person behind the wheel, if there is one because in a smartcar the “driver” has a choice of seats, “Who’s driving?” all the occupants can honestly say (like my three-year-old granddaughter), “Not me,” and avoid a ticket.
  • Exercise Options: Do isometric exercises, or sleep in the smartcar until it arrives at work, school, or home just like on the old fashion train. “Drive tired” will be as popular an ad moniker as Corinthian leather.
  • Business: The smartcar doubles as an office with a printer and computer screen, so the “driver” can type messages, close business deals, trade stocks, etc.
  • Other: Pick your nose at leisure, play with the dog; eliminates road rage, taking two spaces in a parking lot, sneaking into handicap parking spaces, and car horns no longer needed.
  • Infrastructure: Computers talk with road sensors regulating car speed, stoplights, passing opportunities. Smartcar pilot automatically adjusts to “road hazard ahead” warnings from Waze.

My Gen Z students are looking forward to autonomous self-driving hands free vehicles. Just make the interior mirrors bigger.

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