Ralph Nader, the same Ralph Nader who authored “Unsafe At Any Speed” way back in the 60’s, is wary of self-driving cars.  Well, I guess part of me says, who isn’t? 

Nader says the automotive industry should put the brakes on automated driving.  He says, “It’s leading to the emerging great hazard on the highway, which is distracted driving. The auto industry wants “to turn cars into entertainment arenas, mobile offices.”  (And I might add a “wallet”)  Distracted driving is already generating thousands of deaths per year.  “They are ballyhooing the driverless cars when the algorithms are nowhere near as specific as serendipitous situations on the road in congested traffic.” 


You get the idea.


He goes on to say that the driver is losing control…and the more the driver loses control…the less the driver is going to be able to react to what happens to the car down the road. 


I think we all get this point too.  In fact, this was my original fear…no driver control and no possible way the driver, who might be busy doing other things in the automated vehicle, could take back control in an instant if necessary…the human brain needs time for the senses to assess situations before acting!


But we should be perfectly honest and logical.  Accidents cause injuries and property damage.  Cars DO NOT cause accidents.  Period.  Accidents are caused by drivers.  They are caused by lack of attention, distraction, lack of awareness, carelessness, not obeying the rules of the road, not exercising good judgment and sensibility, inconsideration and outright hostility.  All of these behaviors ARE NOT exhibited by the vehicle…they are HUMAN behaviors.


So let’s think about this for a minute.  If the driver is the cause of most things bad…would we not be, in fact, safer by removing that cause; removing the human driver from the operation of the vehicle?  By removing the driver…we eliminate all of the previously mentioned “bad” behaviors.


Delphi recently completed 3,400 mile cross country trek in an autonomous vehicle, 99% of which was completely automated, the vehicle in control.  No issues and the 1% under manual control was in the interest of “over caution”. One point came out…drivers in other vehicles at times got frustrated with the Delphi autonomous vehicle’s strict adherence to the “rules”, speed limits, etc.  Goes back to the points about driver behavior and who really shoulders the blame for accidents, mentioned previously, doesn’t it.  One might even conclude that autonomous vehicles will indeed make driving much more courteous and as software algorithms evolve, much, much safer.


As an “old” car guy who likes to drive, in fact, I would rather listen to the sounds of the vehicle and road than the radio, I am not entirely comfortable with self-driving cars.  I think a lot of people will not easily give up control.  And of course, safety comes in critical mass, the more “automated, complaint and courteous” vehicles in operation we have…the less human behavior will be in play and the safer we will all be.  Long way to go on that point.


But the way is clear…Mr. Nader, you have it completely wrong this time!

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