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The Driverless Car

Lovely! Imagine it, lounging back in your front seat reading the morning paper and letting the car take you there. Giving a little wave as a ting! from the dashboard tells you your car has recognised an oncoming car with a friend at the wheel. Purring down a country lane, needing to pee and and pressing the ‘P’ button. Gliding into the next perfect bit of shrubbery. But all the designers’ claims for the driverless car, all the demos, leave me pondering. And it’s not the car I’m worried about.

Except where its morals are concerned.

I know what the driverless car would do for me. As soon as it saw me coming it would spit on its contrarotating-motivational sensors and, without moving its lips, mutter, ‘Right, guys, watch this.’ It turns in at the office happily enough then, gurgling with suppressed glee, plants itself in the Chairman’s parking space.

But enough of fantasy. And enough of the car. Think of yourself.

You. Getting into this driverless car. Switching on, settling back. You are moving out of the garage, turning onto the road, approaching the main road. By force of habit you look left, right and left again. Coming from the right is a car. You would have waited. But your car knows best and moves out. You’re safe, but for the next few minutes you feel your heart thudding.

If your imagination isn’t quite up to that, try remembering that time when, for the first time, your teenage son/daughter took you as passenger out onto the public highway. Ahead was a particularly wobbly cyclist. Sharp intake of breath? All muscles tensed?

Surely, no normal driver would be able to stand the strain. Consider again. You are sitting, powerless, as your car speeds towards a mother and child, the mother chatting with a friend, the child deciding to step into the road a few yards ahead of you. Or seeing a heavy truck emerging from a hidden side turning, your hands shooting out to grip the dashboard, your right foot punching a hole in the floor. You’d be in special care in a fortnight.

Driverless car, OK. But only fresh-faced16-year-olds need apply.