Ghosts Riding the Whip

Among the many things that I learned from David Hasslehoff is the idea that a self-driving car and a sweet black leather jacket together are a great way to fight crime. And apparently I’m not the only one. Techcrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis recently reported on a Google press event where Eric Schmidt laid bare the company’s progress on what could be the innovation of a lifetime - self-driving cars.

Interestingly the argument Eric is apparently making to government bureaucrats (and the rest of us) is that the self-driving car isn’t necessarily a world-changing concept but rather a practical way to reduce incidences of driving while sauced. It’s a funny way to sell the concept really - a real-life KITT that can drive home its tipsy passenger before a pack of paparazzi get a chance to hassle The Hoff.

Per our post earlier this week, there is a lesson in there somewhere - tell a story that connects to an immediate and practical emotional need, even if what you think you are selling is a grand vision of the future.

Well, on this blog we’re all about both grand visions and the future. So just for kicks here are three of the millions of reasons to look forward to self-driving cars.

  1. Time - Generally speaking, t-i-i-i-i-me is not on our side. No it isn’t. And one of the more nefarious time-wasting activities we participate in is commuting to work by car. Almost 80% of us get to work by driving there. We spend more time on average per year in our car driving to work than we do vacationing. With self-driving cars, though, that will become a way more awesome statistic! It means we will have weeks worth of additional time per year to do things we could do in our living room or at our desk, or heck at the gym. It won’t be long before we are choosing between bucket seats or a treadmill when picking out a new ride.

  2. Safety - Like airplanes, cars that “drive by wire” will be far safer than those driven by human beings. Some studies indicate that we could see as much as an 80% reduction in car accidents if cars could communicate with each other while driving themselves around.

  3. Environment - We can only begin to imagine the full impact of driverless cars on the physical world. Self-driving cars will park themselves wherever they find room. They will reduce the need for a second car by being able to pick up the kids at school before swinging by work to get mom or dad. They will make alternative energy far more appealing because they will not only be able to find fuel on their own when they need it, but they will also make “performance” irrelevant. And with performance and safety no longer top priorities, they will be made less like tanks. Since they will be inherently safer (and slower), the design and materials used to make them will not need to be so focused on sustaining major impacts.

The exciting part about what Eric is saying is that convincing state governments (other than Nevada who, true to form, already allowed Google’s software to drive 200,000 miles all over them) is sort of a final step to really making the push to bring a product to market.

That means if Google gets its story straight, we could be shouting into a wrist watch to hail our trusty vehicular sidekick sooner than you think.