Premium POV

Steering Toward Premium: The Rise of Self-Driving Cars

There are few things I enjoy more than driving. Whether driving to work, on a road trip, or simply running a quick errand, the joy of slipping behind the wheel and piloting a machine to and from a destination always makes me happy. Perhaps it’s the sense of freedom it provides. Or maybe it’s the opportunity to mesh with a vehicle that I can control in various ways. Whatever the reason, I like it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Enter the new premium option of the “self-driving car.” A vehicle you can climb into and, instead of driving yourself, enter a destination into the computer and sit back as the vehicle magically pilots itself to where you want to go.

This blows my mind on so many levels. Driving on public roads requires constant focus and attention, with countless inputs of steering, turning, accelerating and stopping. Is it really possible for this technology to judge and decide and control the constantly changing factors of public traffic and keep its occupants out of harm’s way? What happens when that speeding SUV suddenly crosses the median, directly into my path? Will this self-driving car actually be able to evade such a calamity? Do I even want to risk finding out?

Then there’s the issue of practicality. Is it practical to invest in such coddling technology? Have we regressed so far as to actually need to be driven? Are we so incapable and unsafe that we turn our lives over to a robotic conveyance? Have we grown so soft and lazy as to require yet another gizmo to act on our behalf?

The answers to all my queries aren’t simple. What’s more, I’m sure that many folks will embrace self-driving cars as a premium offering, heaven sent to spare them the chore or stress of tedious driving. But, at the same time, the self-driving pioneers at electric carmaker Tesla are dealing with the fallout of a recent accident that resulted in the death of a Tesla owner. While self-driving, the car’s sensors failed to detect a semi-truck in its path, killing its passenger. A fluke?

The collateral damage of new technology? All of the above?

Tesla stated that drivers “must still be in control and responsible for the vehicle.” To which I reply, then what’s the point? If I still must pay full attention while this thing drives itself, I might as well as drive it myself. And for a car guy like me, that’s always the more premium choice.

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