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Bring on our robotic overlords — self-driving cars are needed now!

When I enthusiastically talk about the death of personal transportation, my friends wrinkle their brow, squint their eyes, and declare, "I’ll never give up my car!" I will! I’m ready now. I would much rather open an app on my iPhone and schedule a car to arrive at the house at a certain time. Say, 9am. But I dillydally until 10am. That’s okay. The car is billing me. And in the long run, that bill will be far less than the cost and stress of ownership. The car will take me anywhere I want to go even if that is across the country. I won’t be concerned with filling it up with whatever magic makes it go. (gas? electricity? tired mice? I don’t care.) Never again will I have to schedule maintenance, lose a Saturday to sitting in the mechanic’s lounge drinking bad coffee while watching Fox News and having discussions with people I’ll never see again, or worry about how I’m going to pay for whatever vehicular madness is destine to befall me during next month’s lean period "Sir, your combobulator is defective and we have to send it to Pennsylvania and we needed to add 300 gallons of water to your tires and I have this great coupon which brings your bill down to only umpteenquadrillon dollars." Anyone that has ever used Uber can appreciate the means by which travel will be handled in the near (yes NEAR) future. A car pulls up, you get in, it takes you somewhere, you get out. No currency exchange. And no driver!

Infrastructure will change. Imagine no longer needing traffic lights, road signs, or lines on the roads. Roads can narrow and in many cases be eliminated completely. The municipal savings will be tremendous!

Additionally, parking lots will go away. We simply will not need parking lots when your car will always drop you off at the front door of your destination. Imagine your shopping mall’s parking lot becoming a wooded nature trail…with shopping in the center.

The other thing I have said in describing autonomous vehicles is that the configuration will change. Specifically I’ve said the car of the future will have a round table (popup from the floor possibly) and the chair will all spin to face the interior of the car. In this way, the passengers can see each other, do business, play games, converse, and relax. There is no need to see what is happening outside. For that matter, we could make the windows go away. Google has shared my vision. Their latest rendition of the autonomous car eliminates the steering wheel and the control pedals. I can’t wait until these are the primary means of transportation!

Of course, with scientists saying that they can convert light to matter within the next year, the car may be dead. Bring on the transporter beam!

Follow-up commentary: In answer to:

So it comes down to comparing the time it takes to walk to your car in a parking lot versus waiting for a robot to come pick you up. How much is that convenience worth? Less in dense metropolitan areas where it’s impossible (or really expensive) finding a place to park."

I answered:

In theory, there will never be more than a few minutes way, like Uber.

For those living in rural areas, some planning ahead may be in order…the trade off for living away from the city. So instead of having a vehicle in under 5 minutes, it may take an hour.

Just like the challenge we face with extending broadband to rural areas, this model may flounder outside of metropolitan areas. Perhaps we will see outliers continue to own personal transportation for which they will drive to the extremities of Metropolis where they will switch for a robotic car. BUT what I suspect will really happen is that the robotic cars will use the same predictive algorithms that Amazon is going to use for same day shipping to make sure a car is near the rural place of need. So if rural home 401 farm st. always orders a car on Wednesday morning why not go ahead and send one before it is requested? If 401 farm st doesn’t call that car someone nearby is likely to need it. Also I suspect the maintenance and storage facility for these vehicles will be in rural areas serving a dual purpose of warehousing outside the space of the city and providing faster deployment in those rural communities.

Then an hour later Techcrunch published "Uber Confirms ‘Record Breaking’ Fundraising, Interest In Driverless Ubers"

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My Life as a Comedy – Sarah’s Car Accident


To fully appreciate the events you are about to read, you must understand that Knoxville had a snow and ice storm over the weekend. The forecast was so certain that announcements on Thursday night declared all area schools closed for Friday, except Pellissippi State Community College where my oldest son attends. The snow came Friday afternoon and PTSCC closed early.

We are a seven person household with five children attending five different schools: pre-school, elementary, middle, high, and college. We have one functioning vehicle.


On Monday, schools delayed opening two hours due to icy roads. Normally, Sarah gets a ride to the high school with a neighbor who teaches at the high school. To protect identities, let’s call her Tonya. For the past decade, I have worked out of my basement, telecommuting to answer my client’s needs around the world. On this particular Monday, I actually had a rare onsite appointment from 8am to 5pm downtown. Before leaving, I asked Sarah, "Do you have a ride?" She replied, "I called last night and Tonya wasn’t there but they said she’d call back if she couldn’t give me a ride. She didn’t call back so I’m good." I left. At 9am, with 30 minutes left before Sarah’s 2 hour delayed pickup, Tonya’s husband called. To protect identities, let’s call him Randy. Randy explained that Tonya went to the high school early. I knew Cathy, my wife, was fighting a migraine and sleeping in so I called Sarah directly. Sarah explained her boy friend, let’s call him Zach, would drive her to school.


Cathy calls me a little amped, "Sarah and Tonya have been in an accident! Air bags went off and Sarah won’t call an ambulance because she’s waiting for the police. You’ve got to call Randy and tell him that Tonya’s been in an accident."


I stare into my half finished first cup of coffee trying to shake the fog out of my head and process what I’ve just heard, "Tonya. Sarah. Accident. Call Randy." That doesn’t make sense. Other thoughts: "The woman is always right" "Yes dear" "Want a happy life, keep a happy wife!" I call Randy and about the time his very confused question, "Tonya was in an accident?" hit my ear, I realized Cathy didn’t know Zach drove Sarah so I apologized to Randy for the confusion and called Cathy.

Enter Larry, Moe and Curly stage left

If Cathy could be sheepish over the phone, she pulled it off, "Whoops. I just told the elementary school they had a pregnant woman in a car accident in the parking lot and they needed to get her to a doctor." Later that night I apologize to Randy again who chuckles and asks, "Did you know I was in an accident today?" No way! Then he explains, "See, Tonya took my car in today and I drove hers. So when her principal, let’s call him Dr. Barlett, checked on her because he’d heard she’d been in an accident, probably from the elementary school, she just knew someone had seen her car in an accident, assumed it was her, she knew it had to be me, and called to see if I was okay." Cymbal crash.

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Oh! So that’s how a differential works!

I’ve spent inordinate amount of time in my life in mechanics’ garages. Being a child of the 70s, I had the pleasure of playing in areas that certainly would decimate and kill today’s children if they so much as glanced in the general direction. I’ve torn a Triumph Spitfire 1500 down to nearly its chassis, replaced clutches, toyed inside transmissions, rebuilt carburetors, replaced water pumps and radiators, rebuilt master and slave cylinders, replaced manifolds and fuel filters and spark plugs and wires and points, turned heads, gasketed this and that, totally rewired two cars (the Triumph and a Ford Escort) from schematics, upholstered, chemically removed rust, bondo’d, primed, polished, replaced brake pads and discs and calipers, changed inner and outer tie rods, and boldly replaced the front axles on a 4 wheel drive vehicle. I left out some things like alternators, belts, lug nuts, and removing rusted parts. In all this, I came to know that a differential is that knotty thing sitting in the center of the back axle where the drive shaft connects.

We live our lives on assumptions and partial knowledge. To have breakfast, we only need to know how to make toast (insert bread, pull lever) not how the actual inside of the toaster works. Web developers may know that a certain DOCTYPE works for their needs without ever understanding what a doctype is. We flick a switch and lights come on but how many people truly understand where how electricity gets to their house? Personally, I have spent my life knowing what a differential was but thanks to a 1930 film I now understand how a differential works. I also know that I haven’t done nearly enough cool things with my motorcycle.

Thanks to Makezine for discovering the video!