Hazlett

Everyone seems to be talking about self-driving cars these days.

Headlines predict fully automated cars on the roads in less than five years. We’ll just hop in the passenger seat and be driven door to door by … nobody. This will be great for busy people who want to work during their commute to the office or those who can’t stay off their cell phone when they’re behind the wheel.

Experts say there will be different levels of automation, ranging from none to total. But I still have a few questions.

An autonomous vehicle will be a great taxi, but what else can it do? Can it drive to the cleaners and pick up the dry cleaning? (Who knows, maybe it will!) Can it back up and hitch a trailer by itself?

If it really wants to impress me, the self-driving car will take me to places I need to go, but don’t even realize it.

“Look, honey, the car thinks we need a date night so it’s diverting us from Menard’s to the drive-in at Gibson City…”

With all the data involved in programming, a self-driving car will certainly be a target of potential hackers. What if someone takes control of the car while I’m in it? I can just imagine my workout instructor overriding my instructions to go to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and redirecting the vehicle to the gym.

And would the driverless car understand there are two drive-thru windows at Dairy Queen, the window to pay and the one to pick-up my turtle sundae or would it drive off after I paid … with no sundae?!

Will a self-driving vehicle slow down so I can read the bumper sticker on a car in the lane next to me during a traffic jam? Will it pick up speed if I see another passenger I don’t want to see?

More importantly, will an automated vehicle vacuum itself and be able to reach down between the seats to retrieve three quarters I dropped (while paying at the first drive-thru window at Dairy Queen)? Can it automatically repel dust and dirt, and rid itself of dog hair? Now, that would be something.

I already have a GPS which speaks to me in a British accent and tells me where to go. I hope driverless cars don’t get snippy like the GPS and repeatedly say, “Recalculating” when I choose a different route. (Or will I even have a choice?)

By definition, an autonomous vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.

This sounds a lot like those annoying robo-dialers that call your house at exactly dinnertime.

The good news is the car of the future will do the concentrating for me. This will be very handy, especially when I am absent-mindedly looking for my car in a crowded parking lot and attempting to get into a vehicle which is not mine.

This happened after church last week. My husband and I were chatting when I walked up to a vehicle the same color and make as ours. Still focused on the conversation, I tried to open the car’s locked door. Twice. Finally I looked inside and saw a travel mug I didn’t recognize.

What’s even funnier is the true owner of the car, whom I do not know, saw me trying to open the door and opened it with her remote key.

(My husband, in the meantime, watched the episode from inside our own car.)

Being chauffeured by a robotic car might be fun. I can tell the car where to go and what radio station to tune into … SiriusXM channel 18, the Beatles channel. And if a particular song comes on, I’ll sing along.

“(Robot) baby, you can drive my car…”

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.

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