I Want to Drive my Own Car


I Want to Drive my Own Car

John Van Horn’s got a lot to say about autonomous vehicles lately, and I’m going to take that as an invitation to explore the topic myself.

You never want to be an old fart when the subject of new technology comes up. We all know people who refuse to text, can’t work a smart phone and are afraid every key on their keyboard is a self-destruct button. I’m not an early adapter myself, but I try. When it comes to autonomous cars I’m still at the stage where I want nothing to do with them. I’d agree to be in the same room as one, but I don’t want to be on the road with any of them.

I’m not part of the parking industry as anything but a parker and a commentator, so I don’t have expert opinions on the progress of the autonomous vehicle or how it will change our world. I just have my own middle-aged views that cause me to mistrust machines.

Have you ever put the wrong kind of soap in your dishwasher? It’s a bubble festival. Have you ever loaded your washing machine wrong? Those things will take a trip across the room. Have you ever put hot liquids on a blender? Don’t do it – unless you want to be cleaning cream of mushroom soup off your ceiling for days.

Have you ever neglected your tires or run low on gas? Driven with shredded windshield wipers or ignored a warning light on your dash? I’m going to guess most of us do these things at one time or another.

Regardless of how well autonomous cars drive themselves, they will still be maintained by humans. I’d like to know how they are going to behave when humans make the mistakes they will inevitably make while programming them, servicing them and even sitting in them.

Not too long ago I read a book called Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, by Craig Nelson. One of the things I remember most is that putting people on the moon was accomplished, in part, through the power of redundant systems. Without knowing if or how or when technical issues would arise, every system on Apollo 11 had multiple back ups.  The other thing I remember is that the book stated that current space flight would never be conducted at the same known rate of risk as early missions.

I might be reaching a bit, but the potential for loss of life on a busy highway is pretty high. It’s not space flight, but for the risks involved, it might as well be.

It has long been my policy to avoid new technology until it has been thoroughly tested by other consumers. That’s one reason I don’t own a fiery Galaxy note 7 – also, I prefer Apple products. I don’t buy a car that’s the first model year of a redesign; I don’t try a restaurant until it’s been open a couple of months; and I wait to buy things like hover boards until they’ve been out long enough to know which ones are best. Sounds selfish, but I call it self preservation.

The makers of autonomous cars will be addressing safety issues for a very long time after they’ve created the technology for a car that drives itself. The costs will be high and the risks will be higher. I want to embrace the idea of the car/chauffeur, but I’m not willing to be the guinea pig or the monkey riding in the backseat while the kinks get worked out.

Read more about autonomous cars here.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Last year there were 40,000 traffic-related deaths and 2.5 million traffic-related injuries. You’re driving today – with the kinks.

  2. In 2016 there were over 1,000 US Companies that experienced data breaches in their systems ( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-19/data-breaches-hit-record-in-2016-as-dnc-wendy-s-co-hacked ), with the Yahoo hack alone impacting over 500 million accounts ( http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/22/yahoo-data-breach-is-among-the-biggest-in-history.html ). There were over 630 million ransomeware attacks in 2016 ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/leemathews/2017/02/07/2016-saw-an-insane-rise-in-the-number-of-ransomware-attacks/#57eab72858dc ) where outsiders took complete control of those computers, a 167% increase from the previous year. Anyone want to give me odds on whether or not those that are perpetrating these attacks aren’t licking their chops just waiting till they’re able to put people in life and death situations when they make their demands?

    That’s just one area where there “might” be issues. Think about how many times while you’ve been driving on the highway that your cell service drops for no apparent reason, even if only for a few minutes. Or how when it rains or you’re driving under power lines your satellite signal goes out temporarily. What happens when your car’s “brain” loses communication capability, even if only for a minute or two?

    You can say “paranoid” if you want, but reality is what it is.

    You can count me among those that are more than just a little skeptical of the idea that 100% computer controlled driving is going to become the norm at any time in the foreseeable future.

  3. Hey Mark — Yes — a 100 times yes The only way to prevent hacking is to cut the cord with the outside world. Any other approach is to mean that you are the smartest guy around, and of course, there is always someone smarter….

    Hey Dan — But today I can make the decision as to whether or not I am going to put myself at risk. Do I want someone else to make that decision (see Mark)


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