Who really wants a self-driving car?

There's lots of hype around self-driving cars; some of it sounds good, some of it sounds pie-in-the-sky and some of it sounds downright dumb

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2. Self-parking cars

A number of efforts in the self-driving car realm are aimed at developing a car that will be able to park itself. Both Audi and Nissan, among others, are working on such cars. The idea is that, once you drive yourself to your destination, you’ll be able to get out of your car, push a button (usually via a smartphone app) and the car will drive off on its own, find a space or garage, and park itself. It will then return to you when you summon it. No more circling the block or parallel parking. Sounds good, right?

Not to me, it doesn’t. I guess I’m a control freak, but I would prefer to park my car myself and, truth be told, I like to parallel park. Will these cars choose to park in a 30 minute space while I’m planning on a relaxing one hour+ long meal? Will my car be smart enough to follow the guy with shopping bag and car keys in his hand to his car and wait for his space or will it just park in the nearest (and most expensive) garage? Again, I’m probably in the minority here, but this seems like a dumb idea.

3. Semi-autonomous cars

A number of self-driving car initiatives are really about improving safety by making the car more aware of its surroundings. These are really more aptly described as semi-autonomous cars, since they would often give the driver the option of letting the car take control in certain (e.g., potentially unsafe) situations. Both Toyota and Cadillac are working on such vehicles, as are researchers in the U.K. developing the RobotCar.

Now we’re talking. I’m all for improving safety, while still being able to drive the car. While I may still not want to give up control of the car, I’m more than fine with the car giving me a heads up, or even helping out, in dangerous conditions. If this is what we really mean by “self-driving” or autonomous cars, then, yes, I think this is definitely a good idea.

But, hey, while all these geniuses are working on making cars smarter, how about maybe forgetting the self-parking idea and coming up with cars that can do the following:

  • Tell my kids in the back seat to pipe down if the decibel level gets too high

  • Detect BS coming from a mechanic

  • Alert me now to the jerk who’s going to cut me off a mile down the road

Those are my two cents on self-driving cars. What about you? Are you all for autonomous or even self-parking cars? Are there other smart features you’d like your car to have? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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