Maybe it's because of the Udacity Self-Driving Car programming course I took. Maybe it's because I hate traffic and inefficiencies. Maybe it's because I'm sad every time I hear about human errors leading to death and major injury, especially from car accidents.
I did a bit of research into the leading causes of death, and while more people still die of age-related medical problems, car accidents are the leading cause of injury-related death (though this may have been surpassed by suicide in recent years). In any case, car crashes kill over 30,000 people per year, and in my book that means they still suck.
Time recently wrote a case study about Google's initiative. With this post, I wanted to simply express my own excitement for this invention and why I think it's cool.
- Self-driving cars are more disciplined than people. They will follow rules (such as related to speed and intersections). Their vision won't get worse over time. They won't have too many drinks. They won't get distracted by text messages, Ferraris, or hot babes walking down the street.
They'll have WAY faster and more consistent response times than you and me. That means when they get cut off by a bad driver, they'll save your life.
They have a way better safety record so far than human drivers. Yes, of course something terrible can happen in the future where they cause or are involved in an accident, but it's impossible to measure the number of accidents in the mean time that they will prevent, and my guess is it will be worth it.
- They share information and LEARN from the road all the time. I got a sneak peek at some of the basics of the technology from Professor Thrun's class, and the amount of intelligence and real-time information sharing that the cars do between themselves while they drive (alerting each other to various road conditions and presences of pedestrians) is really smart. This is similar to why I've recently fallen in love with the Waze social traffic/navigation app.
- How cool would it be to have your own robotic chauffeur? Punch in your destination, and sit back and do work (like on the train). "The future is here, just not evenly distributed."
- Yes, software can have bugs, and yes, we are putting lives in the hands of computers. However, I think that with testing and many levels of redundancies and safeguards (and having a human present to watch over things), it's worth it for the safety and efficiency benefits.
I can't wait to buy one when it comes out. I also believe this will drive tremendous value for Google as a company.