In Support of Self-Driving Cars; in Buildings and on Roads

17th April, 2013 No Comments Blog

Have you ever been in a manually-operated elevator?  The kind with the lever that you push one way to go up and another to go down?  If you have, there was probably an elevator operator in the cab.  After all, you wouldn’t want just anyone controlling the elevator.  Although it’s pretty tough to create life-threatening injury in an elevator (even old, manually-operated models have safety systems that prevent catastrophic accidents), an operator can still hit the top of the shaft in some cases and the bottom (or “pit”) in many.  Doing so is unpleasant for passengers and causes serious wear on the equipment.

Even professional operators weren’t good (or, admittedly, cheap) enough, though.  Most elevators have buttons these days.  All you have to do is push one and you almost always arrive at your destination as efficiently as possible, with the elevator perfectly level with the floor.  All this automation to maximize the safety of a transport mechanism with one degree of freedom – it moves up or down.

It makes perfect sense, then, that, now that the technology is becoming available to create them, self-driving cars are coming onto the roads.  We have tolerated a horrific number of traffic accidents due to driver error for too long (imagine if a similar share of elevator rides resulted in serious injury).  It’s not surprising that such accidents occur – the automobile has many more controls than an elevator, operates with several degrees of freedom, and is typically operated by an “amateur.”  Self-driving cars promise to reduce accidents in much the same way as buttons and safety mechanisms in elevators.

Let’s hope that, someday soon, we can all get from one place to another in a car simply by pushing a button.  Okay, so maybe voice command would be better, but you get the idea.

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