To hear technology magazines tell it, driverless cars are just around the corner. Tesla Motors has made huge strides forward, and Google has been doing its own beta-testing in the race to have the first self-driving cars in the hands of the general public. But I think the essential question isn’t whether it is possible to create a self-driving car, but whether drivers are ready for it.
Admittedly, the alarming rise of fatalities and collisions attributed to distracted driving would suggest that maybe drivers don’t actually want to be driving at all. As early as 2003, Transport Canada was expressing concern regarding the use of “In-Vehicle Telematics” devices, which was the term given at that time to GPS, wireless internet (i.e. cell phones), and adaptive cruise control. It turns out, they were right to be concerned.
Distracted driving – which encompasses everything from texting, to operating in-vehicle sound and entertainment systems – is a factor in over 4 million collisions in North America. But in spite of increasingly more serious fines for distracted driving being implemented, the trend does not seem to be slowing.
Does this mean that we should take the responsibility for the care and control of the vehicle away from the driver and put it in the “hands” of the car itself? With the first fatality being attributed to the use of Tesla’s AutoPilot system in Florida in June 2016, it would seem that this debate is set to heat up.