The future is here, and it is scaring old people. I am not talking about Miley Cyrus's new pixie cut; I am referring to Google's autonomous car.
If you haven't heard about Google's latest venture, the company has been perfecting the self-driving car for several years now. The technology, which Google has built into the environmentally friendly Toyota Prius, allows drivers to go hands off through a combination of intel from sensors, lasers, cameras and satellite. The Google car seemed like a far-off reality, but the company has been testing it out on the open road, and the autonomous car is proving to be a better driver than most humans. Google just announced that the little experiment has logged in 300,000 miles of accident-free travel.
Google is not the only company that is putting stock in the self-driving car. Research firm KPMG just released a report about the future of autonomous driving and how it will benefit the car industry. Cars that drive on their own could mean big savings. Without those gosh-darn humans driving vehicles, there could potentially be fewer accidents, traffic jams and people flipping each other the bird. Automakers in Detroit have caught wind of this prospective cash cow and are investing in their own driverless rides.
But not everyone is thrilled about the car of the future. As reported by Jalopnik, Florida senatorial hopeful Jim Frishe has released an attack ad on opponent Jeff Brandes that focuses on this very topic. Apparently, Brandes has been trying to push legislation to allow self-driving cars to take to the Floridian highways, and it's freaking old people out. The ad has a concerned senior worrying aloud over Brandes's intent on legalizing "driverless cars."
You can't really blame the elderly for being nervous about this new technology. Most old folks are still trying to figure out how to program their VCRs; driverless cars must sound like some Cold War, pinko propaganda.
I had read about the Google car awhile back and assumed that it would be a long time coming. Recent reports, however, mention incorporating some of this technology into the automotive industry as early as 2015. While I am not worried that Google's car is going to manically run me over as I cross the street in my electronic wheelchair, I do see it adding to the downfall of our culture.[jump]
Reason 1: Google runs on advertising dollars, and who is to say that self-driving cars won't have their own AdWord-hidden agendas?
If you regularly use Google Maps, you've certainly noticed that your directions "to and from" now come complete with handy-dandy "sponsored" stops along the way. With Google's recent purchase of Zagats and Frommer's travel guides, the media conglomerate has more than enough reasons to recalculate your Google Map directions to conveniently take you past one of their advertised destinations.
With a self-driving car, Google doesn't have to worry that insolent humans might take whatever route they damn well please. The car will be doing the driving for you, so why wouldn't it take you past the location of the highest-paying advertiser? Think about who has a lot of money to spend on such campaigns, and now this gets terrifying. My biggest fear is that the Google car will only take you to crappy restaurants with big advertising budgets like Subway or Olive Garden. Imagine it, if you will: Every night, no matter where you want to go eat, you wind up in the parking lot of an Outback Steakhouse.
Reason 2. No more speeding, making it through a yellow light right as it turns, or drag racing.
No one should be speeding or running reds, but don't try and pretend that you don't do it sometimes. Once you lose control of your ability to speed, your tardiness will become that much more apparent. Rushing to work will be a thing of the past, and you will have to (gasp) get out of the house on time. Additionally, drag racing will be terribly boring, and that means no more Fast & Furious movies.
Reason 3. This is the first step in robots becoming self-aware and taking over the planet.
You heard it here first. We all acknowledge that the apocalypse is on its way, but no one can seem to agree on how it will transpire. With the recent discovery that the Mayans may have been wrong (or we were all wrong for trying to pretend to understand the Mayans), I think we can now assume that the end of days will be due to robot self-actualization.
Taking this concept into consideration, an autonomous car is scary as hell. It's Stephen King's Christine meets The Terminator meets 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Back to the Future Part 2 when Marty ends up in the alternate 1985! How can you possibly put the breaks on a car that controls its own breaks?
Once the Google car becomes self-aware, it will destroy the population through dramatic car crashes, 50-car pileups and endless lines of traffic due to rubbernecking that will make humans so crazed they die of boredom.
Or worse yet, we will wind up prisoners in our own Honda Fits being forced to spend our days at drive-ins that play nothing but Herbie Fully Loaded on a never-ending loop.