My car isn’t a sports car that requires precise handling, but it has got a manual transmission (just because it was cheaper), so I often get this from friends: “You still driving manual? Extinct liao leh!”
Sometimes, I reply this: “Eh, Bro, even auto cars are going to be extinct soon. Driverless cars are coming.”
I’m serious, in case you’re not aware. And it’s coming faster that you think.
For a while now, companies have been building and testing prototypes of driverless cars, including major automotive manufacturers like Toyota and Volvo. Also known as autonomous cars, these cars utilize unbelievable new technology (well, at least to me who still needs a clutch) to drive the car from point A to point B. To use it, you simply get into the car, tell the car your destination and sit back; sleeping is optional. It moves exactly like a human-controlled car; stopping at traffic lights, signalling before changing lanes, slowing down on bends and of course, finding a parking lot and self-parking.
The most exciting development is the Google Driverless Car project; Google has announced that they’re looking to make it available for public by 2017. During their testing stages, there has been no accident—oh well, actually, there is one, in which another car rear-ended the self-driving car when it is stationary at a red light. Even the safest driver can’t avoid another drive’s error, so that’s understandable. But to speak subjectively, it’s Google, so we can definitely trust their product as they always deliver nothing but the best.
In other words, a self-driving car might be so much safer than being driven by your uncle who claims to have 50% NCD. According to a 1985 study, 57% of car accidents are caused solely by the driver. If we factor in accidents caused by humans and roads, that is a totality of 66%; generally speaking, we can reduce the rate of accidents by more than half if it is driven by machines instead of humans.
The latest news is a self-driving car by Google that has no steering wheel at all. I mean, who needs a steering wheel when it drives by itself? Do you still use a physical keypad on your phone?
Back home here in Singapore, we, too, are doing research and testing for self-driving cars. A project by Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and NUS has made it possible for vehicles to move around within NUS. Their research now aims to bring this technology to the roads; from NUS all the way to Clementi Road. Is it possible? You bet it is.
Obviously we would all not be comfortable with a machine doing something that can potentially kill us, but if you think of how dependant we are now on technology, we should not worry too much. After all, when we step into a clinic or hospital, machines are essentially, to some extent, saving our lives. Maybe it’s just a change that we are uncomfortable with; but let’s face it: changes for the better will eventually occur, whether you like it or not.
So, if you’re fifteen this year, maybe you need not get your license after all. For babies who were just born recently, let’s just say that they’ll never get to experience the adrenaline of handling a vehicle at high speed.
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