“My Car Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student.”
Expect to see that bumper sticker all over the place just as soon as Google puts the finishing touches on its new, self-driving Toyota Prius. Yes, the Googlies are working on a car that can sense the road, figure out the speed limit and watch out for hazards better than a human, thanks to 360-degree perception. It never even wants to smack the GPS lady for spending so much time “recalculating.” In fact, the car probably is dating her.
Personally, I can’t wait to go Google and leave the driving to them. It. Whatever. Just hurry up and make it work as well as your search engine, Google! As a gal who moved to New York City right after college so I never would have to drive (or parallel park), I would happily reconsider my car paranoia if I had an electronic chauff eur.
And especially if I could answer my e-mails while driving! Or snooze. That would be pretty much a game changer.
So far, Google’s seven test cars have driven 15,000 miles — 1,000 of them without any human intervention, according to The New
The other 14,000 miles required only minimal human hand-holding. Steering wheel-holding. Whatever.
You know, we’re really going to need some new expressions when and if this car comes to fruition. Will you still be “in the driver’s seat”? Well, yes — but you won’t be driving. So are you a “back-seat driver”? Maybe — but you also may be the only driver in the car. As for “shut up and drive,” I guess it becomes “shut up and … sit there answering your e-mails.” It lacks a certain punch.
And then there are the bumper stickers! This could be the greatest reboot for those pithy peel-and-stick meditations since the invention of the smiley face.
I ran a contest in the magazine The Week
asking folks to come up with appropriate bumper stickers for the new car, which could be on the market in as little as seven years. Some of the contest winners?
“My Other Car is a Moron.” “Keep Honking, I’ll Give You BOTH Fingers!” “How’s My Texting?”
Then there were the really farout ones: “I’d Rather Be Driving.” “My Other Car Lets Me Drive.” And, conversely, “I’m Driving My Other Car.”
And when you do that — let the android be the driver — does he (she? it?) get to choose the bumper sticker, too? Something like “Man is My Co-Pilot”? Or “If You Don’t Like My Driving, Hit Cntrl+Alt+Delete”? “How’s My Geo-Spatial Locating?”
Actually, the Google car is supposed to excel at the geospatial stuff, to the point that it could reduce the number of accidents. Right now, a stunning 37,000 Americans die in them each year. The self-driving car also could reduce gas consumption, by calculating every inch of the drive and never squandering an ounce of energy. It won’t be the type to, say, gun it hoping to make the light, only to slam on its brakes when it can’t. This is one safe, rational driver.
That’s why someday, I guess, we can expect to see this bumper sticker, too: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive.”
But remember that even in the best of all possible worlds, “1001101 Happens.”
Lenore Skenazy is the author
of “Who’s the Blonde That Married
What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate
Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of
Everything You Know You Know
— But Can’t Remember Right
Now” and “Free-Range Kids:
How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant
Children (Without Going Nuts