Driverless cars are coming. Audi has tested one and others are ramping up. U.S. automakers Ford and Chevy have advance plans; in Europe, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are in the hunt. Google has one on the road, and Tesla can’t be far behind. Many experts look for them to be commonplace in another 4-5 years.
One experiment by Audi had the vehicle drive itself from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas – about 560 miles – and Audi claims that it can navigate through city traffic. We can expect more widespread testing in the near future, but I, myself, would watch carefully before I stepped off a curb, unless these cars have been put through a testing regimen that satisfies me. Here is the Thurston robo-car premium test package:
1) Take that jitney down to Atlanta and put it on the I-285 beltline at rush hour. Put a piece of cardboard about the size of a cell phone in front of one of the front sensors to block part of its vision.
2) Have the jalopy circle the parking lot of a super Walmart on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. Have it compete for the closest parking spaces next to the entrance. It should be able to ignore thumps on the trunk and hood and be oblivious to various vocal commands and suggestions received by shoppers.
3) Send that robo-rod up to the back roads of Pennsylvania deer country after dark during rutting season. Choose a time when many hunters will be going back and forth to hunting lodges with cases of refreshments. For the most effective testing, time the cruise to coincide with a late November snow or ice storm.
Okay, if the car comes back in one piece from this – and hasn’t wiped out any other traffic on the road – send a salesman around to talk to me. He’d better pull up in front of my house hands-off, though.