People Daily

Will drivers go extinct?

Stephen Mbuthi @SteveGears

I have driven a semi-autonomous BMW 5 series, disembarked and parked it while standing a few metres away using nothing but the key-fob. Many new cars now boast semi-autonomous technology as intensive tests eye fully autonomous vehicles. As we speak there’s a driverless competition called Robo-Race being developed.

As for me, I’d rather watch competitive knitting. We watch racing because we can relate to the adrenaline-induced excitement and the bowel-loosening horror that racing drivers go through.

We know they feel because they’re human. Motherboards and computer chips feel diddly-squat so I really couldn’t care less if they all crashed and burned in the first corner. Drivers have been at the heart of driving since the very first car was tested. Everything about cars is about drivers.

Every development to date based on their feedback and intuition. It’s a bit thankless to replace that whole heritage with what essentially is an app.

The problem with this autonomous and semi-autonomous nonsense is that it’s the brainchild of people who don’t like driving! Personally, I don’t even like driving an automatic because I want full control of the experience.

That’s what drivers get from driving. A truck driver at the helm of a Scania going to Busia feels just as connected to his rig as Lewis Hamilton does at the wheel of a Formula 1 car.

When I’m struggling with the short ratio gearbox on a rocky hill, I smile: I don’t want a computer doing that for me. People actually get pleasure from driving.

Autonomous technology supporters are also a thoughtless bunch. And then there’s the reality of economics: autonomous vehicles will render drivers redundant!

And not just cab drivers. Lorry drivers, school bus drivers, office drivers, tractor drivers and racing drivers’ jobs will be on the line. And why don’t we need drivers all of a sudden? Well, there are no answers forthcoming.

The main argument is that 93 per cent of car accidents are caused by human error. But that argument has been thrown into the bin recently by two incidents: one when an autonomous Uber testing on public roads resulted in a fatal pedestrian accident.

The second involved a Tesla Model X, which crashed into a highway barrier and ended up in flames. Despite audible warnings from the system, the driver kept his hands off the steering wheel before the fatal crash. As it stands, fully autonomous technology is still unproven, but it’s coming.

Pick up any car brochure today and it will boast rain-sensing wipers and headlights that sense darkness! What is so difficult about switching on the wipers or turning on the headlights!

The problem is not the car but the fact that the so-called driver cannot be bothered to adjust the seat themselves and the ever-pleasing car companies are only too willing to oblige.

It all started with the distilled essence of evil, the automatic gearbox! When people learnt that they didn’t have to keep changing gear themselves, they asked what else they didn’t have to do. In the spirit of competition, car companies have been engaging in an arms race to make sure there’s less and less for you to do in a car. Now, you don’t even have to be in one!

Proponents will argue that even with all the autonomous technology, a human will still be able to take over. True but also just fairy farts. Autonomous technology, as you can imagine, is very complicated, taking up a lot of the car’s electricity and power! It also adds a lot more weight.

I haven’t done the exact calculation but I strongly suspect that if you took all the wires, actuators and chips that makeup fully autonomous technology and balanced them against an ordinary-sized driver, the computers would be heavier.

So why go to all the needless trouble of adding all that expensive complexity into a car only to switch it off? It’s like carrying around an umbrella all year in a place that only rains two days annually. If you want to be driven get onto a bus, train or a cab.

You obviously don’t like driving and it’s cheaper than buying a car you don’t want to drive. If you really have to have a car but don’t want to drive then get yourself a good driver.

They’re better than autonomous technology and will even clean your car. You don’t even have to worry about parking. Otherwise in the near future, jobless drivers will gang up with factory and farm workers rendered redundant by robots and anarchy will reign throughout the land. #NoToAutonomy!

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