Published On: Fri, Oct 11th, 2013

Wright to the Point

By Jonathan Wright

Computer-driven vehicles on our highways?

Any way you look at it, it’s a hard prospect to swallow.

Recent news has touted our getting closer and closer to vehicles that can actually drive themselves, anticipate problems up ahead, and automatically brake to avoid them–all without any human intervention whatsoever.

That’s just downright scary.

Try as I may, I have a hard time believing such vehicles will ever become the norm on our highways. Despite assurances that they’ll be completely safe, you just can’t get away from the fact that computers sometimes go haywire. They malfunction. They crash.

On the other hand, I know history is full of people who never believed gas-fueled motorized vehicles would ever take off. The same with television. The same with space travel. The same with personal computers. Naysayers have always been plenteous, and I don’t necessarily want to be branded as one of them.

I certainly believe the supporting technology is available for self-driving vehicles. I believe it’s inevitable that they be tested and even a few sold. I even believe they may become quite popular over time.

But it’s hard to believe they’ll ever really be safer than regular vehicles with real human beings behind the wheel.

I know. We humans are fallible. We’re not perfect. We get distracted way too easily. Our judgment can be quite flawed.

So–accidents happen, sometimes really bad ones.

But I choose to take my chances with my own mind, my own reason and judgment, regardless of their fallibilities, rather than rely totally on a robotic vehicle that may or may not operate perfectly and thus may or may not avoid all dangers.

I guess it all comes down to trust and control. I don’t think I’m ready to fully put my trust–and my very life itself–into the “care” of a computerized machine.

And neither am I ready to give up personal control. I want to be in charge when I seat myself in my vehicle. That’s me, not a computer that may mess up occasionally due to a glitch or some other unanticipated malfunction.

If this world lasts another 30 or 40 years and such futuristic vehicles eventually become commonplace, these words could very well come back to haunt me, and I’ll be branded as one of those behind-the-times, visionless skeptics from the early 21st century.

I can live with that, though. Just leave me alone behind my own “me-controlled” steering wheel.