Some time ago, car maker Mercedes Benz was proudly introducing a system that would brake for the driver in low visibility conditions if an obstacle presented itself in front of the car. It used radar to see through the mist, and it was an excellent idea.
So they gathered a bunch of journalists, explained what was going to happen, and then created artificial mist to obscure the drivers vision. Then, on with the demonstration:
What was the problem here? Apparently the driver forgot to turn the system on.
Last night I watched a video on the TED talks channel (recommended, a lot of interesting things in there) where Google presented a "self driving car". Here's the video in question:
While the guy speaks of a worthy cause - saving a million drivers a year, saving fuel, better highway flow - and the car seems to work quite well, I have a concern which is... I wouldn't get into a car without a driver.
Airplanes have autopilots that are able to pretty much take off, fly and navigate the aircraft and then land it, but I wouldn't get into an airplane with no pilots, would you?
In the case of the proposed car it's a bit different, it seems that, while it drives itself, the driver has to be present and in the driver's seat for it to work. But this leads to other problems, like, who wouldn't fall asleep if the car was doing everything itself and you just have to relax and monitor things? Specially on a long drive... who would enjoy "watching over" to check if the car is making mistakes or doing something wrong for 2 hours? Extremely boring, you're going to fall asleep
What happens when an eventuality does occur? When these robotic cars are circulating very accurately close to each other, as proposed by mr. Inventor there, and one of them does have a mechanical failure (cos they occur), let's say a blown tyre... it'd just skid to one of the sides slamming all the neatly packed cars and the pile up would be worse than human driven cars.
Another thing is that if future drivers are so removed from actually driving the car, then if they need to go into "manual mode", and they will eventually, they're going to be extremely shitty drivers. If you don't get practice, you're going to hit everything trying to make that car of yours fit into a garage that the robotic car is too dumb to get itself in to.
I am for driver aids such as Mercedes' failed system (when it works), giving the driver more information by means of radar, or other technologies such as infrared, to see further in the dark, or to detect a man walking in the middle of the street in a foggy morning, alerting the driver to the danger or even braking in his stead. But not robot cars that take over the whole business of driving, that's too much, and it can be dangerous.