(Partially) Self-Driving Cars

Christopher Mims had an article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal that talked about the technology involved in controlling self-driving cars is slowing the introduction of production-ready self-driving cars.  Aspects of that technology are making their way into human-driven cars, obviating the need for computer-run cars.

I have some thoughts on that.  Because opinions are my jam.

Mims led off his piece with this about that technology in a more current car that remains fundamentally human-driven:

It will take over when it thinks you’re making a mistake.

No, it won’t. That’ll be among the first things I disable, right up there with any OnStar-like tracking. I remain smarter than both the average bear and any computer.

Mims then asked about the safety features for which we might look in our next car.  I’ll be looking for better 360 sensing.  My 2013 Fusion Hybrid had pretty good sensing, both to the front and to the rear.  It didn’t have “collision warnings,” but it did warn of obstacles.  Nor did it have automatic, preemptive breaking; that technology wasn’t readily available then.  Thank goodness.  Still, sensing always can get better. I also opted to not have forward sensing on my current Fusion; that has turned out to be suboptimal.  I miss the added data.

Mims also asked whether partial autonomy would be a requirement.  Far from it for me; that will be a deal-breaker, unless I can engage/disengage it at (my) will, like I can my cruise control—which is pretty much all the autonomy my car needs.

What I really want is better displays to facilitate my decision making.  I want a decent HUD that displays in a couple of lines across the bottom left half of my windshield such things as current speed, fuel, engine performance and status (if I’m driving another hybrid, I want battery charge state and per cent of maximum battery power at my current driving speed), and time and distance to my destination and next turn point if I’ve laid in a route on my Nav system.

I also want more flexibility in the organization of those displays remaining on my dashboard.  There’s no reason, in this age of digitized displays, that I can’t make my own choices on what to display on this or that display monitor and move displays (not the monitors hosting them) around to group them according to my preference.

In the end, my car works for me; I’m not along to validate the computer’s decisions, much less to be overridden by them.

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