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comment by _refugee_
_refugee_  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: In a driverless future, drivers will do anything else

Call me a Luddite.

    Rinderknecht says he envisages a future where car passengers will want to do the same kinds of things we today do to kill time on trains an airplanes.

Do you know how boring it is to have to kill time on an airplane? I suspect the idiom here is not selected at random. You literally do anything on an airplane to pass the time because you - or at least I - end up feeling stifled, trapped, out of control, and bored to tears. Whatever I select to do on a long flight usually is not entertaining for long enough for me to feel contented. Books get finished. I don't have the right attention span for movies. You are cramped into a somewhat uncomfortable position, can barely get up, cannot move freely, and are surrounded by strangers, which can be a little fun sometimes - or aggravating, tiresome, unnerving, and a number of other adjectives. At some point I am left drumming my fingers on the flat surface and looking around, missing entertainment and freedom, wondering what I can do next and feeling like it's not much.

Driving, on the other hand?

Oh my god I love driving. I love being behind the wheel. I could drive nowhere for hours a day. If gas were cheap I would absolutely do that. I love driving in no small part because I am the one behind the wheel. I view every time I drive as an opporunity to get better at driving. I like to think I'm good at driving - I certainly enjoy it - and I like feeling like I can get better. I like thinking about cars as marbles in giant tube systems, with hatches (stop signs) and springs (green lights), all of us clicking along different beautiful interconnecting routes as we travel. I love to look at what I can see when I drive - though frequently I'm engrossed by the road so I can't see much. I love empty back country roads where there's no one but me and I derive a lot of peace from this feeling. I love making patchwork quilts of Pennyslyvania roads in my head as I come across them, slowly expanding the network of broken-down roads I know until like a puzzle I can fit pieces together. This knowledge may be useless but I love it and it's not knowledge I could easily derive from a map, it's knowledge I gain and keep by doing. I can look at a map and see it, sure. But it only has meaning to me once I have crossed and recrossed miles of scarred blacktop. I love that point where you know a road well enough that you know how fast to take a turn, how fast you can take a turn. I love knowing if there's a sudden swoop ahead before you can see it. I love knowing roads like lines in my palms.

Why would you ever want to take that experience from me and give me the empty, bored, unchalleneged feeling of sitting in a plane or train, not in control of any element of the trip, a passive object sitting there and rotting? Why would you want to take active growth and engagement and replace it with the need "to kill time"? Of course, that's not what automated automobile manufactorers are thinking of when they design these cars. They are thinking of The Future! They are thinking of relieving people of unpleasant tasks.

I love driving. I go driving in order to think. If you simply put me in a box and I press a button and it takes me where I say I want to go it completely removes everything that I love about driving. Driving for me is a meditative state. They want to take my meditation and make it into twiddling thumbs.

Driverless cars, I conclude, are for people who care about getting to the destination - they are not for people who care about the journey.

You can have your driverless cars. You can keep 'em.





kleinbl00  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

A perspective:

I spent ten years driving in Seattle. Up there, commuter traffic breaks up into two groups: commuters and warriors. There's almost a code: commuters will stay the hell out of the way and get there when they get there, and warriors are driving goddamn it and if they only shaved two minutes, at least they shaved two minutes being alive. Warriors tend to be aggressive and they tend to get into dogfights. Within the code, however, is the unspoken understanding that warriors do not fuck with commuters. They're not even "cars" they're obstacles. Might as well be big square rolling traffic cones. Start fucking with the commuters and suddenly there's a lot more chaos on the roads - things are easier when the warrior pool is limited. Don't wake the zombies. To do so is a party foul.

Down here in LA, everyone is checked out. Nobody is truly driving. It's the sort of deadening that happens when no amount of navigation will make your job better - the "warriors" down here are usually right along side you, cutting people off every two minutes, making no forward progress whatsoever because the miasma is truly impenetrable (unless you're on a motorcycle, but that's another story). They're all doing the stuff the article talks about - chatting on the phone. Smoking a bowl (holy shit - the 405 during afternoon rush hour). Watching a DVD. I passed a guy doing Just for Men on his mustache once.

Autonomous cars are going to be better for you. Why? The clueless who just want to get there will no longer get in your way. Here's the thing: freight trains have been autonomous for at least fifteen years. They still have conductors on them, though, because you need somebody there when things go wrong. From the article:

    Ford Europe chief Stephen Odelle also said the technology was speeding forward, but added that he believed "the technology will be ready before legislation and consumers are."

    "How comfortable will consumers be with fully automated cars?" he asked, adding that legislating for liability would be quite tricky with no driver behind the wheel.

There will never be a car that doesn't have a manual override, and there will never be a person in the driver's seat who doesn't have a driver's license. That's basic safety. Many airliners these days are capable of autonomous landing and takeoff - but we still have pilots.

Go ahead and drive. No one is stopping you, and I doubt they ever will. Those guys who would rather play Words with Friends? Let 'em. You're so much better off if they're not also trying to keep it within the lines.

ButterflyEffect  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'll agree with you on airplanes, being cooped up in one is not a particularly pleasant experience. But trains, on the other hand, I love. A nice train ride is a soothing experience and it's nice to be able to take in the journey of a train, especially in Europe.

kleinbl00  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I really wish train travel in the US wasn't abjectly, stupendously lame.

Seattle to Vancouver: $40, fast as driving.

Seattle to Portland: $40, fast as driving.

Seattle to San Francisco: more than flying, TWO GODDAMN DAYS.

LA to San Diego: $35, fast as driving.

LA to Santa Barbara: $40, fast as driving.

LA to San Francisco: more than flying, TWO GODDAMN DAYS.

LA to Seattle: TWICE AS MUCH AS FLYING, THREE GODDAMN DAYS.

thenewgreen  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Am currently halfway through a 10 Hour Dr., and I would much rather be on a train. That said, there is no doubt that train travel in the US pretty much sucks. But here are some tips on how to make it more tolerable: http://hubski.com/pub?id=38684

Edit: it is amazing how beautiful West Virginia is to drive through. Then you go over this gorgeous bridge, and you see a sign for Ohio and the other side immediately sucks. Ohio is really difficult to drive through, it takes about 70% of the trip and it's flat, and quite barren.

ButterflyEffect  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm going to swear here. Is that okay with everybody? FUCK DRIVING THROUGH OHIO. Jesus I swear. That fucking state. I would avoid it all costs if it's at all possible. I hated that state before and then I was a passenger in an accident that probably should have killed me and a friend and fuck driving there.

_refugee_  ·  2101 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm terribly fucking offended by the cursing.

Sorry 'bout that accident, though.

b_b  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Am currently halfway through a 10 Hour Dr.

To MI?!

thenewgreen  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My grandfathers 80th birthday party tomorrow evening. Shhh it's a surprise. I turn right back around Sunday morning. There for one day only.

Why can't the speed limit be 70 miles in Ohio, like the rest of the country…?

veen  ·  2102 days ago  ·  link  ·  

To be fair, when you compare LA-Seattle to Europe, the distance would be about the same as from here (Netherlands) to Spain. Which takes about half a day to a day and is just as expensive as a plane, but nobody does that shit. Plane's just too easy and you can get really low rates when you fly with something like Ryanair.

Where rail really shines is trips longer than an hour / one and a half (Intercity trains) and between really big cities (e.g. Brussels - London) as it provides a better and easier door-to-door time for people who need to be in the city's core anyway.

flagamuffin  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I like your post, but it's just one (I suspect minority) perspective.

    Why would you ever want to take that experience from me and give me the empty, bored, unchalleneged feeling of sitting in a plane or train, not in control of any element of the trip, a passive object sitting there and rotting? Why would you want to take active growth and engagement and replace it with the need "to kill time"?

Well, because I don't have enough hours in the day to do the things I am supposed to do already. And because any time I want to visit someone or something from my home I have to kill 5-8 hours staring at the same highway I've stared at a thousand times before. I also have to risk my life because it's one of the most dangerous highways in the world. Because after the hundredth time doing this, driving irrevocably became a chore. I think you live in the east, yeah? Remember that. Driverless cars were fucking made for the great plains.

Am I going to use the driverless mode on a beautiful country road? (maybe -- I like to be able to look at everything I drive by without hindrance) --but probably not. Am I going to use it in the city? Probably not ... unless, wait, there's tons of traffic like there always is; I can't stand driving in traffic, no one can.

Another point: I get the meditative feeling as much as you do -- but some people get it and fall asleep. Cars simply aren't safe.

ad absurdum: someday we invent teleportation. Great! 95% of the time I'm going to use it. But the 5% I don't will be the time I spend traveling, looking at things, etc -- and I'll value that time so much more than I do now, because it's a luxury rather than a necessity.

_refugee_  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

See and this is another aspect of it that I don't like! They are talking about using cars as "movable meeting spaces." You can do your work while you drive! I think that's awful. We already cram so much work into our lives, please don't take my car and make it a workspace as well. It is like that article about - the greatest mystery is why we fill our downtime back up with work.

Something my dad has always said and that really sticks with me is that all accidents are by nature preventable. In fact from the name itself, "accident," you can derive that notion. It's something I wrestle with because I think it's a very hard line to take, I mean I hit a deer with my car - could I have prevented that? Can you prevent being rear-ended? There may very well be times when the accident is completely someone else's fault and you couldn't have prevented it but I think they are rare and far between. That is one of the reasons I am so "tuned in" when I drive. That's one reason I see it as a challenge to always improve.

The people who get behind the wheel and mentally fall asleep are idiots. Cars aren't safe because people do idiotic things while driving them. I'm not pretending I don't multitask more than I should or with things I shouldn't touch sometimes: I do. I look at my phone sometimes. I hold it up so I can see the GPS or whatever.

You raise fair points about the plains. I don't know. I love a good two-hour drive down to the beach but even then I can choose a more rural highway over an eight-lane monstrosity. I like having the limitations of my perspective pointed out to me. And yes. I live very close to farm country. It's beautiful.

thenewgreen  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    We already cram so much work into our lives, please don't take my car and make it a workspace as well.
Chris Rock does a bit about people with jobs and people with careers. If you enjoy your work and literally take joy from it, why not do it while commuting? That would be amazing for me.

Write poetry while being chauffeured around.

Unlike flagamuffin, I have no desire to ever "retire." Like, no joke... not ever. I want to continue to produce stuff.. .music, writing, businesses, moments with family etc. If you can cut out hours of time in my life that was previously spent mundanely operating a vehicle.... please do.

flagamuffin  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

But that's not at all how I define work! :p

flagamuffin  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    You can do your work while you drive! I think that's awful. We already cram so much work into our lives, please don't take my car and make it a workspace as well. It is like that article about - the greatest mystery is why we fill our downtime back up with work.

I can read books while I drive. I can write music while I drive. I can take a nap while I drive. I can masturbate while I drive (?!). I'm the one who's always spouting off about retiring when I'm 35 on here -- I'm not about to spend extra time working.

    The people who get behind the wheel and mentally fall asleep are idiots. Cars aren't safe because people do idiotic things while driving them.

And the result is that driving is statistically the most dangerous thing you'll probably do this year. Let's change that.

    You raise fair points about the plains. I don't know. I love a good two-hour drive down to the beach but even then I can choose a more rural highway over an eight-lane monstrosity. I like having the limitations of my perspective pointed out to me. And yes. I live very close to farm country. It's beautiful.

It really does just depend. I'm on interstates all the time because that's the only thing for it. One time traffic was really bad so I took winding frontage roads instead for four hours, going about 90 so I wouldn't lose any time overall -- that was fun. But it's not the norm sadly.

b_b  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm also a huge fan of driving. I love driving fast cars, especially. I've owned several in my life, including my first car, which was a Mazda RX-7. Getting behind the wheel of that car for the first time almost gave me an orgasm. But on the downside, I totaled it in less than three weeks! I guess that's where the driverless thing comes into play :) I'd have a hard time relinquishing control of my cars. I've driven all over the US and the experience itself is something I cherish as much as the destinations I've visited. I'm with you on being a car luddite.

thenewgreen  ·  2103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Do you know how boring it is to have to kill time on an airplane?

It's only boring because of the limitations. If I could talk on a phone, use my computer and consume media uninterrupted and without annoying those around me, it wouldn't be a limitation. You can do most of those things on an airplane but not without being that guy. If you had a car, and you were the only passenger and it drove you to your destinations... you could be SO MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE. At least I could. I am hunting for time these days. There's so much to accomplish and so little time.

I drive a L-O-T. I'm about to drive for 10 hours straight tomorrow. 10 hours. That's not meditative, that's obnoxious :)