Roughly 37,000 individuals die in car accidents in the U.S. every year, most of these caused by human error. Sometime in the future, the steering wheel will be taken out of the hands of people and handed over to A.I. devices that will be largely infallible. You’ll be able to step into your vehicle and simply punch in your destination. Presto! The car will take you there.
But how soon should the transition to driverless cars take place? Organizations such as the RAND Corporation, a public policy research group, argue that we should speed up the rollout of self-driving technology. Waiting, they say, will cost lives. Yet driverless vehicles are far from infallible. Just this April, a prototype driverless 2019 Tesla S crashed into a tree and killed its two passengers, all while the driver’s seat was empty.
We’ve reached a whole new standard of laziness, driven by an unceasing desire for instant gratification.
The technology will no doubt be perfected someday, but rushing into it is “utter nonsense,” says William Jeanes, former longtime editor-in-chief and publisher of Car and Driver magazine and author of The Road to Pickletown. He simply cannot fathom why someone would want to hand over the steering wheel to a machine. “Just go get in your car and get what you want,” he says.
Jeanes acknowledges that he is “something of a Luddite,” but his animosity is not so much about advances in technology as it is about what the automated car says about society itself. He believes we’ve reached a whole new standard of laziness, driven by an unceasing desire for instant gratification.
For Jeanes, at least in the near term, driverless vehicles bring two very specific words to mind: trial lawyer.
This article is featured in the July/August 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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