[from the New Yorker, by Burkhard Bilger, November 25, 2013]
Human beings make terrible drivers. They talk on the phone and run red lights, signal to the left and turn to the right. They drink too much beer and plow into trees or veer into traffic as they swat at their kids. They have blind spots, leg cramps, seizures, and heart attacks. They rubberneck, hotdog, and take pity on turtles, cause fender benders, pileups, and head-on collisions. They nod off at the wheel, wrestle with maps, fiddle with knobs, have marital spats, take the curve too late, take the curve too hard, spill coffee in their laps, and flip over their cars. Of the ten million accidents that Americans are in every year, nine and a half million are their own damn fault.
For example: The modern freeway; a multi-lane nightmare in the making. Switching lanes is a roll of the dice, throw in commuter stress with the daily grind and you have upped your chances for the urban/suburban demolition derby. It’s a race to road rage.
Burkhard Bilger examines the potential that driverless cars bring to this mix. Are they a solution? To what extent have they adapted to the everyday traffic options facing the average human. Technology, money and bold experimentation, evenly applied to a growing transportation problem has resulted in almost a decade of research in this area. Practical experience with robotic vehicles had generated a lot of lovely data. What conclusions hath such experimentation wrought?