Friday, April 22, 2016

30 Years

For some reason being bearish about the future of self-driving cars pisses people off more than most things I post. I don't really understand why. I'm not suggesting we ban the things or anything. At worst, I'm wrong! But even the Google people think they might be 30 years away. 30 years hopefully fails my "not in my lifetime" prediction, but it's still not anytime soon. For the last few years lots of people have talked about them as if they're just around the corner. Just a few Friedmans away.

I'm sure the perceived feasibility of these things is colored a lot by where you live. I live in an old urban hellhole where the street grid was laid out a couple of hundred years ago and road conditions are often less than perfect. If the majority of your driving experience is on well-maintained multi-lane suburban stroads or highways, you probably have a different perception of the difficulties. But a true self-driving car has to manage both of these things, and plenty of other types of driving. People focus too much on safety. I think safety is the easiest problem to solve. Tell car not to bump into things. It might not make the overall driving experience safer, if the cars behave a bit weirdly, but I'm not surprised that the cars aren't having accident problems. It's the functionality problem. 80% or 90% isn't enough to be a self-driving car in the fantasy sense of just push the button and have a car show up and then you tell it where to go. 80% or 90% might not be that hard! But it isn't enough.