From Wired comes a story about efforts to develop cars that drive themselves. Such vehicles would presumably allow their owners to do stuff like read, surf the web and play cars on long trips. I like driving, so I have mixed feelings about the whole concept of a car that can drive itself.
But there are other reasons to feel conflicted about cars that drive themselves. A friend of mine rolled her eyes when I mentioned cars that drive themselves. In her mind, some of the money being used to develop cars that drive themselves would be better spent on public transportation, particularly high speed rail. And she's right! I really like taking the train. I'd do it more if it were more available, as well as affordable. (Amtrak doesn't cut it, sorry).
Blogger Amanda Marcotte has similar thoughts on the matter, writing:
"These companies are spending a lot of money on researching self-driving cars to address the desire of people to be able to commute without having to drive. But there's already a superior solution to that problem, one that addresses both the desire to not drive and it's better for the environment: public transportation. People don't need self-driving cars! They need better trains and buses, and more accessible trains and buses. Imagine if the resources being devoted to self-driving cars were instead aimed at expanding the public transportation infrastructure and making in more comfortable. For instance, Vanderbilt is right that people's desire to surf the net instead of watch the road could incline them to want to avoid driving to work, if that were an option. Well, why not put high-speed wi-fi internet on all public transportation, and then advertise the shit out of it? Instead of spending money on developing self-driving cars, what about high-speed trains? What about more subway systems? There's a serious 'reinventing the wheel' problem here."
Marcotte is right, but it doesn't matter. Driverless cars might sound like something out of a science-fiction movie, but the will to develop them actually exists. High speed rail, on the other hand, is just one of those weird luxuries they have in Europe. There's no glamor in bringing high speed rail to the U.S. But driverless cars! That's another story. Driverless cars, you see, are cool. And that's why we're much more likely to have driverless cars than high speed rail.