Newsletter Issue #831: Self-Driving Cars, the Apple Car and Legal Questions

November 2nd, 2015

More and more auto makers are taking the drudgery — and some would argue the fun — out of motoring in your car, SUV or truck.

For me, it started simply enough. For my first nine years as a driver, I stuck with a manual transmission. That’s how I learned to drive, and I was quick and smooth about moving from gear to gear, assuming the vehicle was cooperative. For such an old technology, it’s surprising that some auto makers manage to build vehicles that are difficult to shift unless you really force the issue. I prefer butter smooth.

My approach, at the time, was to not just save money, but get the maximum performance and fuel economy from the cheap compact vehicles I chose to buy. Luxury cars were way off my radar, and not just because I couldn’t afford one.

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3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #831: Self-Driving Cars, the Apple Car and Legal Questions”

  1. dfs says:

    I doubt there’ll ever be such a thing as a 100% self-driving car. More likely, what we are going to get is something like the system on an airplane, in which takeoffs and landings are still done manually by the pilot, and the autopilot takes over when the plane starts cruising. In the same way, when I’m on local streets, maybe hunting for a specific address, I’ll be in control of the car, and it becomes self-driving only when I’m on the open highway and traffic is moving above a certain speed (probably I’ll still be on my own in traffic jams and stop-and-start situations). This would be much easier to engineer and might at least minimize some of the problems Gene raises.

    But I hope, of course, that this system comes with an override feature. It will be hard enough to convince me that such as system is as safe as a car controlled by a reasonably good driver, and harder still to convince me it’s even safer than that. And besides, dammit, I LIKE to drive and don’t want a car that deprives me of the pleasure.

    • @dfs, Regardless of the extent of automation there has to be a way to disable self-driving. Even if it’s just putting your foot on the brake pedal, there must be a way to override. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

      I agree: I don’t want to give up driving, but for a long, boring trip it might be worthwhile to trust the computers. Maybe.


  2. dfs says:

    I think it’s a given that some kind of override must be includes. Nobody would be so crazy as to buy a car to which they had to surrender complete control.

    I agree with you about long boring drives. All in all, I think the aircraft autopilot gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect. It might be possible to build a totally self-flying plane, but as they are implemented the pilot can regain control at any moment. The FAA would never permit anything else, and neither will the states allow self-driven cars on the road without a licensed driver aboard

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