Vehicle of future forgoes the driver
By Eric Heyl
Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Forget about granite interior trim, built-in champagne coolers and diamond-studded tire rims.
Today's must-have automotive accessory is autonomous operation — a vehicle capable of driving itself.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch and U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Altoona, illustrated that fact on Wednesday. The pair traveled from Cranberry to Pittsburgh International Airport in a computer-operated car designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.
The 2011 Cadillac relied on radars, infrared cameras, lasers and other high-tech equipment to make the 33-mile trip. Had this happened while Henry Ford was still alive, the driverless vehicle probably would have had the Model T developer attempting an exorcism to cast out the demons under the hood.
“Begone, license-lacking agents of Satan!” he might have cried as the holy water thrown on the hot engine instantly turned to steam. “Find other means of transport back to Hades!”
Experts predict computer-operated cars will hit dealerships in a few years. When they do, expect demand to be high because the primary benefit of owning one is obvious: When in a car, people no longer will be annoyingly distracted from more important things by the mundane task of driving.
Instead, they will be free to leisurely concentrate on undertakings they now rush to complete while idling at a red light: phone calls, texts, makeup application, dental flossing, nasal hair trimming, gift wrapping and nitrous oxide huffing.
Computer-operated vehicles would provide liberating transportation options to constituencies that many people unfairly believe should have no right to be behind the wheel. These groups would include, but certainly aren't limited to, those who are preadolescent, drunk, drugged or deceased.
That's not to say there wouldn't be some bumps in the road if computer-operated cars become commonplace. Suppose a sensor suddenly fails on the highway at night, and the vehicle begins weaving erratically and is pulled over by a suspicious police officer.
“Sir, were you aware that you kept crossing back and forth into the other lane?”
“Really? No, officer. I was on my laptop looking for a movie to watch online when I get home. The computer is driving.”
“I see. And has the computer been defragmenting at all this evening?”
“Well ... maybe a file or two over dinner, officer. But it wasn't defragging to the point where its driving ability was impaired.”
“I'll be the judge of that. Sir, I'm going to have to ask you and the central processing unit to step out of the vehicle.”
That's not the only potentially problematic issue. The lines at PennDOT driver's license centers could get a lot longer because a significantly higher percentage of patrons would be requesting picture retakes.
Circuit boards can be incredibly vain.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Neal suspended five games for Marchand hit
- Expert: KO doesn’t mean ‘worst’ concussion for Pens’ Orpik
- Eminent domain panel values Flight 93 crash site at $1.5 million
- Lawmakers accuse UPMC of political-style attacks over insurance bill
- Steelers WR Brown says ‘I thought I had it clean’ after wild, near-miss finish
- Kovacevic: Enough of these Steelers already
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Aliquippa’s Henry picks West Virginia over Pitt
- Shaler Area School Board sets tax increase limit
- Planning commission reviews project to triple size of Latrobe Alliance Church in Unity
- Ruby Tuesday will pay $575,000 to settle age discrimination claim