Sunday, January 21, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Driverless cars in Tampa? It just does not compute

In the interests of full disclosure I will readily admit to certain Luddite tendencies.

Although I have a Facebook page, created simply to humor the nudging of the Bombshell of the Balkans, I never look at it. Frankly, I have zero interest in being constantly informed where friends might be dining — at that very moment! — or what someone is cooking up in their kitchen.

I don't tweet, twitter, or whatever the heck it's called. Blogging? Why? I've never Linked In and I certainly would never think to purchase anything online. I was well into my 40s before I ever used an ATM and I'm still not completely sold on the idea either. Now this.

It is just our dumb luck that Tampa has been chosen as one of the select sites around the country to conduct experiments on the use of driverless cars. Uh, is it too late for a recount?

If it's all the same to the U.S. Department of Transportation, perhaps these driverless car tests could be shifted to, oh maybe Damascus, or why not Baghdad, where it's already deadly enough to find oneself stuck in traffic.

It's merely a suggestion.

Apparently the study on robotic cars will take place on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway during nonpeak hours. Eventually other streets such as Meridian Avenue and the Brandon Parkway might also be used to simulate, in the words of Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority executive director Joe Waggoner, a full driving experience.

If Waggoner truly wants to stick one of these fancy thingies into a full driving experience, they can just park the cockamamie contraption in the middle of Meridian at rush hour and go have a few drinks until the next day.

My late grandmother, when confronted by some newfangled emerging technology like a washing machine, would bemoan that "Oh, I've lived too long." I now know how you must of felt, Nana.

Put another way, simply because it might be technically possible to create a driverless car, does it necessarily follow that it is a peachy idea to actually have ghost vehicles zooming hither and yon along our byways?

Supporters of driverless vehicles argue that the phantom cars will be safer and decrease costs associated with accidents from insurance and medical treatment. But do you really want risk riding in a driverless car that might well drive into a tree because some gizmo within the guts of the computer failed?

Or what happens when a driverless car wakes up on the wrong side of the motherboard one morning? Has anyone thought of that?

Four words: 2001: A Space Odyssey. "I'm sorry, Dave, but I don't believe in red lights."

Even if you are a completely dedicated technophile, would you seriously consider getting into the passenger seat of an automobile totally dependant on a hard drive to get you safely from point A to point B without rear-ending a truck?

Who knows? Maybe someday far, far, far into the future, the Mary Celeste Chevy might possibly be roadworthy, but only if the scientists can add just a few extra touches.

For example the headless car should be able to express itself toward other vehicles using the international hand gesture for ... have a nice day. It also ought to be able to drive at least 20 miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit in the left-hand lane. And the zombie sedan ought to be equipped with ear-shattering heavy metal music just to annoy all the other Pontiac Apparitions.

Now that would be progress.

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