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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The case for driverless cars


I live on a dead end country road that has no more than ten homes. Some traffic in the morning, some in the afternoon. Up at the county road, our exit to the world, a different story. It’s busy much of the day and heavy often during the day. Big trucks; semi tractor trailers hauling freight from point of loading or unloading, up to a major interstate. This piece of Ohio has grown up around us in the last thirty years.

This afternoon I waited to get out onto the county road, off to get Laura. I had to turn left. I watched at least one semi approaching from the right, and some pickup trucks and cars. From the left, a small black pickup truck, with another car behind. All the traffic from the right cleared and I looked back to the left.

The black pickup was creeping. Some impatient traffic was piling up behind. I looked right. Oncoming traffic a couple streets down. What to do about the black pickup at left, a thousand feet away and barely moving? I turned in front of him. I realized the driver’s head was on his chest. Was he dead? I looked into the cab as I passed.

You guessed it. Texting. Completely, totally obvious to the road around him. He was close to a stop on Akron Cleveland Road, impatient drivers behind who were not clear to pass, and him with unfinished texting to do. This was not the classic left hand holding phone at eye level, eyes darting occasionally to the road. This was total focus on phone held surreptitiously below steering wheel level.  So no one would notice?

As I drove on down the road, it came to me. This is why driverless cars are being built. These millennials are something else, aren't they.  


34 comments:

  1. once way before the dawn of cell phones and texting I was driving along the freeway I saw a person with their head down, I drove alongside to see and noticed they had a book propped between the steering wheel and their chest, and they were reading and were so engrossed in their book, what were they thinking? to This day I wonder what they were reading = it must have been extremely entralling

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  2. Texting is great, quick messages to avoid long phone calls. If I need to do it, I pull off to the side of the road. It only takes a second.

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  3. Texting will be the death of many. I remember reading about driverless cars in My Weekly Reader when I was in the second grade. The car looked like an AMC which came out about 30 years later. Inside the car were a mother and father with their son and daughter. They were all sitting at a round table in the center of the car playing a board game as they were on a ride to destination unknown.

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  4. I've noticed that on some of the major highways there are now places to pull over and park ... to text or use the phone (with signs in advance letting drivers know where they are). Don't think I've ever seen anyone in them....

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  5. I do not understand the need people have to be constantly 'in touch'....it borders on the insane...especially when combined with something so life threatening as driving.

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    1. I just learned how to turn my phone off...pathetic, but freeing!

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  6. that's how it is in all the sci-fi books and movies and cartoons...just punch in your destination. when it becomes commonplace I assume accidents will dwindle.

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  7. I wonder what will happen if the power goes out, so computers go do... or when a computer chip, or whatever, malfunctions.
    Can't imagine it would be pretty.

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  8. They are obsessed with their phone. It is a deadly disease and they take others with them.

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  9. Here too. Which I really, really don't understand. Sometimes being out of contact is bliss. We have signs up beside the highway saying things like 'Missing a call, won't kill you' but it is obvious that many people are not convinced.

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  10. Well, there's our million dollar idea. If 99% of all fiction in all of literature was identified as following maybe 30 plots tops, then how many responses do we need to handle texts? A device able to identify key words in maybe 10 types of texts and respond appropriately could do so without interference from the human to whom they were sent. We could honor Edmond Rostand by calling the program "Cyrano". Is anybody working on this?

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  11. It is amazing what people do behind the wheel instead of drive; text, eat, put on their makeup, read a book, etc. I can definitely see the advantage of a driverless car. I like that there are laws in certain places about not being on the phone or texting while driving, but I can't tell you how many police cars I've driven by that are on their phone as they are driving.

    betty

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  12. I hope it will not happen during my lifetime, I love driving! On the other hand - I love stitching too and I could be stitching while driving :)
    Evalina, This and that...

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  13. The very thought of driverless cars worries the pants off me.

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  14. This sounds terrifying Joanne, and yet part of me worries what would happen if the works went wrong on a adriverless car.

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  15. I just wonder if a driverless car makes a mistake (even machines can fail or error in judgement) and it's your car does your insurance go up; are you to blame, who sues who?

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  16. What a coincidence. National Public Radio had a report last week on a driverless car in production. It seems the computer on board functioned just fine, except the voice portion of it had developed the habit of grumbling comments on the abilities of other drivers on the road!

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  17. Hari OM
    ... and I raise you this one...
    "Police said: ‘Police Scotland can confirm that, following inquiries into footage showing a road traffic matter on Queens Road, Aberdeen, a 46-year-old man has been charged and reported to the procurator fiscal.'"

    Yup. True story. It's available on you tube from the cyclist who spotted what could actually be called the "driverless car"... YAM xx

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    1. ...forgot to mention that he was on A LAPTOP, MOBILE PHONE AND HAD EARPHONES IN HIS EARS....

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    2. Hah! Good one!

      And I raise you BOTH with this one: My uncle, a long-haul trucker, pulled out to pass a passenger vehicle, glanced into the car as he pulled alongside, only to see a woman driving while nursing a baby, smoking a cigarette, drinking a can of pop, and talking on her cell phone. Yep.

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  18. It is sad that so many drivers still use the cellphone while driving -- in Hawaii it is illegal.
    Hubby got caught holding a cellphone while stopped at a red light. He had to appear in court and pay a huge fine.

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  19. We have banned cell phone use in our city. I"m glad. I rarely talked on mine when I was driving as I knew it made a significant difference in my driving ability. So glad to have that ban. Especially for the teenagers and new drivers.

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  20. It is so scary isn't it? I would think that with technology what it is today they could figure out a way for either the car to not run or the phone to not work if one is texting while driving!!

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  21. So scary, and they don't care that it's against the law, they do it anyway. Insurance companies should not pay for accidents caused by this, maybe they'd think or then again they probably wouldn't
    I often thought that if all cars were standard shift it might stop it.

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  22. Can't wait driverless cars sound good, can't be any worse than some drivers.
    Merle.................

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  23. what was that man thinking? that he is an immortal?
    It is against the law here to text while driving, not that many follow it. A year or two ago, we pulled up alongside an young man playing a violin while driving with his knees. But that cannot top the example above!

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  24. Texting while driving is a real sore spot with me.

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  25. He could at least have pulled to the side!
    I hope you all have a lovely Easter Day Joanne.

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  26. He could at least have pulled to the side!
    I hope you all have a lovely Easter Day Joanne.

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  27. Mobile phones should be switched off while driving so no distraction. I can feel my husband getting agitated when his phone goes while he's driving - he will pull over or wait to answer but it is distracting none the less.
    Some of the elderly villagers still driving are so tiny you can barely see them behind the wheel !!!

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  28. A few days ago at the Daimler-Meeting in Berlin I saw the prototype of their "driverless car" - weird. In itself it is a good thing - but somehow I would feel out of control.
    And the man you spotted in that car - under the wheel : outrageous! Careless at least, selfish, and very dangerous.

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  29. Makes me scared to go out on the road someday when I think about the texting situation, -- barbara

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  30. I think it is very sad to think that people feel they are such a necessary addition to this world that they need to be in touch every minute..or is it the reverse-. You know how I feel about using any phone device while driving.

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