Bob Bestler

Why do we need driverless cars? Are we that lazy?

FILE - This Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 file photo provided by Virginia Tech shows Virginia Tech Center for Technology Development Program Administration Specialist Greg Brown behind the wheel of a driverless car during a test ride showing the alert system handing over automation to the driver, while traveling a street in Blacksburg, Va.
FILE - This Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 file photo provided by Virginia Tech shows Virginia Tech Center for Technology Development Program Administration Specialist Greg Brown behind the wheel of a driverless car during a test ride showing the alert system handing over automation to the driver, while traveling a street in Blacksburg, Va. AP

I’ve been listening and reading about driverless cars and I’ve come away with just one question: Why?

Why do we need cars that drive themselves? Are we getting so lazy as a people?

Supporters say computerized cars, once they are perfected, will be safer, give people more free time and alleviate traffic problems.

Those arguments suffered a setback recently when an owner/passenger in a driverless Tesla died when the computer failed to recognize a white truck crossing in front of it. Maybe a set of human eyes would have helped.

But of course there are thousands of traffic deaths caused by human drivers, so I suppose we should not be so quick to blame a computer after one death.

As for free time, I know if I were riding in a driverless car I would hardly feel free. I’d be watching its every move and would not take my eyes off the road.

I do that as a passenger with a human driver and you can bet I’d not rest a minute under a computer’s control. I’m in the wrong demographic to place my full trust in computers, driverless or otherwise. I’ve lost too many almost-finished columns to cyberspace.

Honestly, the whole idea of a driverless car escapes me. I love driving too much to even contemplate sitting still while a computer propels me across country.

In the year or so before I got a license, back in the ’50s, I couldn’t wait to drive. I’d sit in the family sedan, in the driveway or garage, and pretend the really cool Bob was cruising Main, with all the girls oohing and aahing. Talk about a teenage pipe dream.

A year later, armed with a license, I loved driving so much I “borrowed” my grandfather’s car and headed to California. I got as far as Nebraska before I turned around and drove back to Minnesota.

Not much has changed since then. Several trips to California and more trips from South Carolina to Minnesota than I could count – driving all the way.

Even today, I drive to North Myrtle Beach every Tuesday to play golf – a hundred or more miles round trip for 18 holes of golf. I’ll admit that listening to a book helps.

I don’t know who the driverless car is designed for, but given the rocket-like speed with which technological advances become commonplace, can a Wal-Mart parking lot filled with driverless cars be far in the future?

These days, as we carry our phones and something called the Internet in our pockets, we amaze our children when we tell them about such quaint items as dial phones and typewriters.

So how long will it be before parents tell their kids about the days when people actually drove their own cars? Have you ever heard anything so crazy, children?

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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