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Avoidable Contact #66: The autonomous grift, and how you’re going to pay the price for it

I can’t tell you what the price of oil, bitcoin, or Tesla stock will be 24 hours from now, but I feel absolutely confident in making the following longer-term prediction: You are never going to share the road with a significant number of autonomous vehicles. “Never,” in this case, is a fancy way to say never. Not in the lifetime of anyone reading this column. I am stone-cold certain about this. If you want to contact me and make some sort of bet, I’m your huckleberry—but give me a chance to convince you on the matter first.


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Replies (38)

Replies (38)

Since most new cars are already linked to satellites, a fully autonomous car could easily be controlled (driven) by an outside source.

Miss a car payment and your car will refuse to start

Failure to make the payment in a reasonable time, the car will drive itself to the impound yard.

Maybe some hacker breaks into the system and takes the car for a virtual joyride (with or without you in the car).

Would you ever actually know who really controls the car ?

Think about that.


Pit Crew

The author may not have heard of Hyperloop. A small version will autonomously get him his Burger King order in seconds, and a larger version will autonomously get him from L.A. to New York in minutes. If there are multiple tubes, and vertical tubes, there will be a network of ways to go up and down skyscrapers and mountains at speeds faster than a 6.5 Creedmoor bullet. Since magnetism is used to accelerate, slow down and levitate the transportation capsules, there is no friction. Because there is no air resistance in motion, there will be no opposing forces to slow you down. I will place that bet with the author under one condition. There can be no bipartisanship in government that slow funding for the infrastructure needed to create such a life changing transportation system.


Now do electric cars. The problem is not the Motors -those are awesome- or the technology, it's the battery, I can bet a storage container for electric power, with the capacity, ENDURANCE and recharge convenience of a fuel tank is simply impossible. Electrons are inherently unstable, no matter what you do, all they want is to escape away, it's their nature. I'll buy an electric car when one is capable of running the entire 24 heures du Mans either on a single charge or with a 1-minute (being generous) refueling like internal combustion or hybrid cars can. Which will be never.


You must be exhausted from always swimming upstream but at least you usually stay in your lane.  Humans have a bias to think linearly, AI improvements are made exponentially.  A few months ago we had a handful of virus cases and now we have millions because of this same human bias.


We don't really need 100% autonomy to make a huge difference in the fatality and accident rate. The current fleet offerings include great tools to keep cars from crashing into things. Lane keeping, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control. These things are great for safety and are getting better every year. In ten years, new cars will be virtually crash proof. The problem will still be trying to avoid the 100% manual cars, which will be like random missiles to the computer.  

Intermediate Driver

Lead & Gold transmutation part is backwards, though an alchemist who could turn gold into lead would surely have created a powerful weapon.


I read the earth is flat and the moon is made out of green cheese too.


I think the issue comes about with your definition of "self driving".  If you mean you walk out of your house and get into the "passenger compartment", kick back and read or sleep until you arrive at your destination then you're probably right about someone my age (66).  But I have high hopes my children and super high hopes my grandchildren will do just that.


That said, we already have what are quite close to autonomous vehicles driving beside the idiots.  In Phoenix they have Waymo, in other cities there are other vehicles that have "drivers" but only to "take over if something goes wrong".  And certainly it can and does now but when it does it's a big story.


My 2018 Model 3 with FSD does a very competent job on the freeway, even taking the right exits to other freeways and the final exit from the freeway.  To suggest we will NEVER get better than this is to hide one's head in the sand.


It's going to happen.  Maybe not in my lifetime (although I bet a couple grand it will) but at least in my children's.  Civilization wants it too bad.


I'll take your bet as you've already lost it. As of *two years ago* Waymo's (Google) fleet of autonomous cars have driven "...20 million miles on public roads in 25 cities, including Novi, Michigan; Kirkland, Washington; and San Francisco. That’s up from 10 million only a year ago..." They've probably close to doubled that by now. If you live in any of these densely populated cities, chances are you've driven with an autonomous vehicle, even if you didn't recognize it as such.