“Some Google employees have their self-driving vehicles take them to work. These car robots don’t look like something from ‘The Jetsons’; the driverless features on these cars are a bunch of sensors, wires, and software. This technology ‘works.'”
This post started out with an innocent enough tweet. I had seen an advertisement from Ford about a self-driving car of the future. While, naturally, I couldn’t find that exact advertisement on the Internet, I found something similar:
The picture in the advertisement was of a couple sitting in the front seat of their self-driving vehicle, chatting idly away while the car whisked them off to wherever it was that they were heading. They seemed engrossed in their own conversation, completely oblivious to whatever lay ahead in the road, which led me to wonder:
Do self-driving cars repair their own flat tires?
— Jason Hull (@hull_j) April 6, 2017
The tweet got a couple of likes and retweets, but no serious answers.
It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about robots doing the work of humans:
How long will it take to go from robot bricklayer (https://t.co/jY6Jo01JtP) to complete automated building construction?
— Jason Hull (@hull_j) September 13, 2016
I live in a downtown urban area. I am at the point where I rarely drive. I’m a big user of Uber, or, secondarily, Lyft to get me somewhere around town if public transportation isn’t convenient. I happily use Megabus or Amtrak to get to other places that aren’t within flying distance. Gone are the days when I enjoyed 5-6 hour one-way trips when I was in college or stationed in Germany to get to far flung places.
In fact, urban living tends to breed its own version of laziness. Even though the nearest grocery store is less than a mile away, it’s across a major highway and the parking lot is always full, creating, in my mind, unnecessary hassle (yes, I know…#firstworldproblems). When we moved to our current location, there was a grocery store a block away that we walked to. It also had a growler bar, so we could always get a glass of wine or beer to put in the cart while shopping. Seemed like we always came home with more than we expected on those trips…hmm…
So, because of my decreased driving – a positive in my mind because it creates the corollary of increased walking – I’ve become fascinated by self-driving cars. I firmly believe that self-driving cars are not too far in our future (see the great Wait But Why series on Elon Musk to get a good overview of where this technology is heading), and that will have an astonishing impact on people who depend on driving to get something or someone from point A to point B, both as employees and as consumers.
I dream of the day when I can log onto Amazon, make my order of weekly grocery delivery, and have a self-driving car deliver it to my residence.
But, it’s not just grocery shopping where this could possibly occur. In Dallas (and probably other places), there’s a service called Favor where you can order foods from different restaurants, and a driver will go and fetch those orders for you. On binge day, we love to get i Fratelli pizza and Val’s Cheesecakes (if you’re in Dallas and haven’t tried Val’s, you’re missing out on a treat). As it works now, the app sends orders to both places, and then a driver goes to both places, picks up the items, and delivers it to our location.