Columns 7.7.2017 05:30 am

To drive or to use the self-driving car?

Getty/AFP/File / Justin Sullivan<br />Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sits in a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California

Getty/AFP/File / Justin Sullivan
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sits in a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California

I can picture myself sitting outstretched reading a book while being driven to the office.

Now here’s a brain teaser by a vigilant Chinese traffic officer just this week: In the unlikely – but possible – event of a self-driving car exceeding the speed limit, or committing some other, random traffic offence, who will be charged with violating the law?

Will it be the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle owner, or the people in the vehicle at the time? I honestly don’t know the answer, but it should make for a fun debate at the braai on Saturday. In fact, the whole issue of self-drive vehicles will.

All I know is I want one. I can picture myself sitting outstretched reading a book while being driven to the office. And my car must talk. Like the GPS.

It must ask me interesting questions and offer advice – in a female voice. Then when I want silence I can just make an off-thecuff remark about women drivers and she’ll be quiet for three days.

The best part will be stopping for coffee on the way. And if there’s no parking, I can just tell it to drive around the block while I get my fill.

And I can eat in the car, using both hands, and text and write and check my mail. It will definitely improve my productivity, unless of course I take a nap on the way to work.

My car will be my own personal designated driver. I wonder if one can be charged with drinking and driving? Obviously I won’t be having a drink in the car. That would be illegal – drinking in public.

And could I perhaps ask my car to follow another car? Not that I want to follow anybody. I’m just wondering. And what if I’m the one being followed? Two artificially intelligent cars trying to outmanoeuvre each other, with me in the centre. I see a movie.

Of course, half my friends wouldn’t want a self-drive car. It definitely won’t be the vehicle of choice for all the control freaks out there.

There will obviously also be the one bright spark: “How safe will it be?”

Statistically, the safest mode of transport is flying. There are on average an estimated 10 000 planes in the sky at any given moment.

And I wonder how many of them are on auto-pilot.

Danie Toerien

Danie Toerien

 

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