14 thoughts on “Pleasurable Driving”

  1. “Young people may want to get together as they always have, but the amount of communication they can do on their devices will diminish their need to be in the same physical location as much”

    My guess is that most young people would still like to get together physically and go places in the real world. The problem for many young people who go/have been to college is that they simply can’t afford cars & driving — a consequence of taking on all that student debt. (Although we have to remember that a subset of the college-goers use their student debt to buy cars). Among the much larger group of non-college goers, my impression is that they are just as interested in personal mobility as always. But all that is anecdotal; it would be interesting to see real data.

    As to autonomous driving, there is something strange about the current situation. The obvious low-hanging fruit is long-distance interstate trucking. Big rigs could make the simple long distance runs between cities on controlled-access freeways without a driver, and pick up expensive human drivers at depots on the outskirts of conurbations for the more complex deliveries in town. But that low-hanging fruit is apparently not flavor-of-the-month. Instead, the focus is on the much more complex issue of city driving by private automobiles. As my old college professor used to say — whenever you see something happening that does not make sense, government regulations are probably involved.

    My guess is that the commercial market (versus political market) for private automobiles is going to be much more along the lines of driver-assist (eg better collision avoidance systems, better integration of GPS, improved parking assist, etc) rather than autonomous driving. And given that it probably takes 15-20 years for the vehicle parc to turn over, human-driven cars are going to be with us for a long time — probably longer than our current governmental systems.

  2. Driving is fun. I have done rather a lot as I drove semi trailer for quite a few years. My first tractor was an old Ford 534 gasoline city tractor. It had both a 5 and a 4 speed transmission and took a while to master. It was fun learning to work it, and playing in traffic at 65′ and maybe 80,000 lbs was what I did.

    The coming automation of all this will proceed more quickly than most people think. We have the capacity and knowledge to do this, and only getting it all together remains.

  3. I’m sure people looked back fondly at some aspects heating their homes before home heating was automated. Things like splitting wood or stoking a coal furnace can be satisfying. Ditto doing the laundry before automatic washers and dryers. And there was probably a sense of accomplishment carrying water from a well head or spring to the house, before indoor plumbing became common. Carrying the waste water back out of the house though probably didn’t bring back fond memories.

    In 20 years we’ll be amazed that people had to spend an hour or so every day piloting automobiles instead of doing something more useful or pleasurable.

  4. I predict that it will take much longer than the “experts” predict. My regret is that I’m not smart enough to figure a way to divert some of the billions being wasted into my bank account.

    Ask yourself: Why haven’t the trains been automated? the problem is orders of magnitude easier. Certainly part of the answer is entrenched interest represented by unions, but that is only the most obvious. At the same time, it’s an example the situation where the operator sits for hours doing nothing but staring out the windshield until the instant when he has to intervene. A major effort of the railroads has been to provide enough workload to prevent engineers from going into a trans state.

    The Tesla autopilot is so limited, I can’t believe a sane lawyer would sign off on either the name or the device. It will be interesting when one of the law suits finally comes to trial. Shooting fish in a barrel comes to mind. Imagine if you tried to drive by following the lane markers with actual vision beyond about 100′ limited to object about 6-8′ square. This is what the “autopilot” sees.

    A 99% solution will probably only kill you about once a week.

  5. The problem with self-driving is not technical, it’s regulatory. With our current legal scheme of assessing all the damages to virtually anybody with the slightest relationship to a civil suit, no manufacturer will ever put a true self-driving vehicle into production for general use.

  6. In 20 years … a significant percentage of the non-autonomous vehicles being built today will still be on the roads, still with human drivers.

    Automobiles began replacing horses over 100 years ago — yet we still see human drivers hauling horse-boxes along the roads every day. Rich and poor, lots of people still enjoy riding horses, even though these days they are effectively simply riding in circles. It is a reasonable guess that, even if autonomous driving technology can be perfected (which is far from obvious), human beings will keep driving vehicles for a very long time.

    The factor which could change this is government intervention. For example, landscapes across the Western world would not be littered with bird-whacking wind factories if it were not for government mandates and subsidies. Government regulations could certainly accelerate the development of autonomous driving capabilities — but would drivers use those capabilities they are forced to buy?

    The one thing we know for sure is that in 20 years time we will all be paying the price for decades of politicians borrowing money in the name of the public — money that can never be repaid. The impacts of those decades of irresponsibility are hard to predict, but it is quite possible that luxuries like autonomous driving will find a much tougher market.

  7. @CapitalistRoader – In our first house, I cut wood off the property for all our heat. Five cords. Bragged about it. Did find some satisfaction in the accomplishment. Then I went to “sticks,” 12-16 foot trunks, delivered. A little easier. Then I went to 4′ lengths, unsplit, delivered for a few years. The last year in that house, it was 18″ cut, split, and delivered. I stacked it. Can you sense that I was finding it less and less attractive each year?

    I have been in the current house 30 years, and we use the large basement wood stove only when the power foes out or it goes below zero, to warm the floor. Actually not even that since the new 3-zone heating system went in two years ago. I still have half of the cord I bought in 2016, which I add to with the 4-5 small trees or large branches I take out myself for safety and appearances sake. That’s just about enough to be entertaining. Your comparison of this to driving, and Anonymous’s analogy to horses seems about right. Things can linger as entertainment for a long, long time, once it escapes being a matter for survival. It allows us to pretend we are having the same experiences as our forefathers.

    @ Mike K – Noted. Sounds good. Thanks.

  8. I heated my place in BC with wood for almost 20 years. I am good with a chain saw and I did enjoy using it. The last tree I dropped was a dead one like almost all the trees I cut, and had a semi double trunk. As it would not fit through the space that led to the road, I twist cut it and it rotated about 90 degrees and dropped onto the road. You do that by leaving a diagonal hinge that breaks progressively as the tree falls. ;)

  9. I don’t see a need to tie human driving with individual car ownership. Will people become increasingly less enamored with automobiles once cars drive themselves? Sure, and that will induce lots of people to give up car ownership but I don’t see any government agency doing that or even trying to do that.

    Insurance companies will be the main instigator of reducing human driving. If traffic fatalities drop ten-fold with AVs then obviously insurance companies are going to charge much more for people who drive their own cars. And after a while the pressure will increase on politicians to eliminate human driver in metro areas at least some part of the day/days per week. If it saves the life of just ONE child, etc.

  10. This year will mark the 30-something anniversary of “true” artificial intelligence being less than 5 years away. At least as far as I heard, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the 40-60th.

    Anonymous is right, I just bought a newish truck to replace a 2000 that I owned for 16 years and 250,000+ miles. It’s now more of a question if I will last as long but it will still be on the road.

    The legal liability problem won’t go away. Look at the hell Toyota went through on “unintended” acceleration. I would bet a good deal of money that it was never anything but pressing the accelerator by mistake. I have done it a couple of times, the difference being that when the car didn’t respond as I expected, I pulled back and found the brake peddle.

    There is still a lot of work done from horseback. This is especially true in cattle. It’s very dangerous to be afoot in a group of cattle, and they don’t react the same way to vehicles.

  11. CapitalistRoader: “If traffic fatalities drop ten-fold with AVs then obviously insurance companies are going to charge much more for people who drive their own cars.”

    That is a very big “IF”! Even if a brand-new Autonomous Vehicle could achieve that very high level of performance (dubious!), the maintenance required to maintain that level of performance is likely not to be negligible.

    Two related thoughts:

    (1) Look at your Uninsured Motorist coverage. In my State, about 1/3 of motorists do not have valid insurance (with the connivance of the Political Class, it must be said), thereby driving up costs for those of us who do pay for insurance. It is a reasonable guess that a lot of the people in the future who do not carry insurance will be driving older non-autonomous vehicles. Even if AVs cause less accidents (dubious!), the effect on insurance rates may be less than one might expect.

    (2) What about vehicles that have autonomous capabilities but still have steering wheels, etc — which is likely to describe most AVs for the foreseeable future? How would an insurance company rate an autonomous vehicle which could still be driven manually?

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