The future, and what it will look like, is a subject that has always fascinated me. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the annual Popular Mechanics issue that featured the “Cars of the Future.”
This week we got a glimpse of the real future of cars. Not so much what they will look like, but more along the lines of what they will be able to do. Right now, Google is testing a driverless car. Using radar, sonar, GPS, lasers and who knows what else, Google has modified a car so it can drive, steer, stop and park without any human involvement at all, and theoretically, it will do all of this without hitting anything. If they are successful, it will be the greatest advancement in automobile science since the invention of the seat warmer. The hope is this technology will be in all cars someday, and car crashes will become as rare as a quiet day in the Middle East.
Now, one would think that sensible people everywhere would embrace any idea that benefits society so positively. The notion that cars crashes could be eliminated is astounding. On the scale of human achievement it would rival landing a man on Mars. But every coin has two sides. All horses are not of the same color. Believe it or not, there are people who are quietly rooting for Google to fail.
Among them are the owners and employees body shops, towing companies, salvage yards and car rental companies. When cars stop crashing we will need fewer of them. We will also need fewer police, insurance companies and emergency rooms. We will need fewer chiropractors and ambulance-chasing lawyers, and probably fewer ambulances, too. Advertising revenue will decline substantially. Fewer lawyers means fewer buyers for billboards, TV commercials at four in the morning and the back cover of the telephone book. And this is just a partial list.
The people who earn their livelihood in these industries will not, in my opinion, fade quietly into the woodwork, especially since some of these professions tend to attract those who are not disposed to do anything quietly. But on the other hand, how does one come out in favor of car crashes.? It would be akin to doctors organizing against a cure for cancer.
So it will be an interesting thing to watch as it develops over the years. Almost as interesting as watching my city embark on its latest plan to introduce modern transportation to the masses – in the form of street cars. Forward we go.