Illustrations by Bratislav Milenkovic
The other week it was announced that Ontario will be the first Canadian province to start the on road testing of self-driving cars. I’ve always been a proud Torontonian which I guess by default also makes me a proud Ontarian, and boy did this news add to my existing provincial pride. I'm sorry, but how cool are we? We're going to have the first ever self-driving cars on our streets! Sorry rest of Canada, Toronto has done it again in claiming its rightful space as "centre of the Canadian universe". (joking, obvi)
Apart from the "cool factor", how exactly do I feel about the entire “self-driving car” idea? Well, let’s see. First you should know I am a downtown commuter. To get around the city I use the TTC (ugh), my bike, walking, taxis and ubers. I have never signed up for autoshare or zipcar simply because I’m too lazy to fill out the application, otherwise I’d probably be using that service as well. So knowing that there will soon be self-driving cars to pick me up and drive me places is....well..... amazing.
Now I could go on and explain the economical and political implications of this decision, but that's not why you're here reading this. So, here are the ways in which self-driving cars are going to enhance my (and likely your) life.
Chat & Judgement Free Zone Yes, uber has been helpful in driving down the prices of taxis in this city, but everything comes at a cost. We've been provided with the option to pay less for a ride BUT now we have a new issue, we have to talk to our drivers. I know, I know, big bloody first world problem. But don't go pointing your finger at me on this one because I know you have felt the same at one point! You get into an uberx and your driver starts up a conversation and all of a sudden evening = ruined. So here is where self-driving cars come to the social rescue. These cars will completely 100% eliminate the pain and agony that comes with making small talk for 10-15 minutes. ALSO, and possibly more importantly, self-driving cars will allow us to bid farewell to the embarrassment that comes with asking a taxi driver to take us either through a drive through or to pull over to buy snacks. Never again will we be judged by our late night cravings. Goodbye cruel human car driving world.
Self Driving Cars Can't Text This one is pretty simple. The number of distraction related car accidents has dramatically increased in the last 5-10 years due to texting while driving. This is an extremely dangerous habit that most people will continue to do until something bad happens to them (unfortunate but true). Self-driving cars will have one task to focus on, and that is driving. Again, to go back to the taxi reference. It seems that cab drivers are always on the phone. I'm not sure who they're talking to. Who even talks on the phone anymore these days? Better yet, who are these people on the other end of the line willing to ramble on for over 8 hours? This will always remain a mystery. So by taking out the human need for connection via text and phone calls I would like to believe that these self-driving cars will eventually make our streets safer.
A World of Possibilities Self-driving cars coming to Canada is going to open an entire world of technological and digital possibilities. Once we become comfortable with allowing these cars into our daily lives, think of what else we may be open to! To whoever started the self driving car movement I would like to propose future projects for your consideration:
self-grocery shopping fridges (amazon is kind of already doing this with their Amazon Dash button)
self-laundry-doing washing machines self-writing homework
self-checking for murderers in your closet apartment closets (I could guarantee you one purchase)
Risks? Yes, obviously I’m kind of nervous for the introduction of self-driving cars into the place I call home, who wouldn't be? Im nervous because I feel like there are certain things humans are better at than computers. Specifically, reflexes. I think these cars will be great for following GPS dictated routes and avoiding traffic that only the internet can see, but what happens when a kid dashes into the middle of the road chasing after a ball? Between a computer and a human, who would be quickest to react? I truly don't know the answer. I think this is going to be a really interesting transition in our community and culture and it will definitely come with some challenges.
Looking Forward What’s most interesting about this news is that the testing of these self-driving cars will begin as early as January 1, 2016! Pardon me? That it basically two months away. How do I even prepare to share the streets with robots and what will I wear for my first ride?
For more details on this big announcement, check out the entire article from the Globe and Mail here.