Autonomous Vehicles and the Future of American Car Culture

Today in the NewYork Times there was an interesting article entitled "Collision in the Making Between Self-Driving Cars and How the World Works." (1/24/2012, p. B6). Google has developed a small fleet of self-driving vehicles, and the article deals with the kind of changes that would be necessary if these cars became adopted on a large scale. A conference took place recently at Santa Clara Law School on this topic related to technology and society.

Google's Sabastian Thrun has claimed that the autonomous car project has resulted in 200,000 miles of safe transport, and the promise is one where some 33,000+ lives per year will be saved. Google is pushing for states to approve the use of these systems as early as 2013 or 2014, with the completion of limited roads for their use within 20 years.

So will this mark the beginning of the end of the joy of driving? Will driving no longer result in self-realization, autonomy, and freedom, as movements are increasingly "programmed." Chcuk Berry sang songs of the exhileration of driving and driving for driving sake, like in "No Particular Place to Go." Will our journeys be charted in Garmin-like fashion, with little reason to turn off the main highways on to the blue and black by-ways?


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