Having a hard time parallel parking? Press a button on a touch screen and let the car park itself. This isn't just a dream, but a reality--that really could happen in the future (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) because automakers are pouring millions of dollars into systems that hand over the control of a vehicle to a complex network of sensors and computers.
In the September 30th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Hirsch quotes California Governor Jerry Brown (who presides over a state with terrible traffic jams) as saying, "We are looking at science fiction becoming reality in a self-driving car." He has signed a bill that would allow self-driving cars on California's roads.
Hirsch quotes insurance expert Adrian Lund as saying, "This is the future. Vehicles are designed to protect people when crashes happen, but it would be even better to prevent crashes from happening altogether."
The auto insurance industry estimates that if all passenger vehicles were equipped with just four sensor-based alert systems: forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and adaptive headlights that pivot in the direction of travel based on steering wheel movement--about 1 in 3 fatal crashes and 1 out of 5 injury crashes could be prevented or have their severity lessened.
But these cars are still in the testing stage: When Los Angeles attorney Randy Garrou test-drove the "intelligent parking assist" feature in a Toyota Prius v hybrid, the system backed the station wagon into a lamppost. Hirsch quotes him as saying, "If that had been a human, the person would have been wiped out."
Google is one company that is investing a lot of money in a Self-Driving Car Project. Hirsch quotes the project's CEO Anthony Levandowski as saying, "Look at all the people who don't have access to transportation today but still need to live their lives. The fact that you have to drive your car all the time is kind of a bug in the car itself."
Why is a company like Google investing in self-driving cars? One reason might be that texting is safe when your car drives itself.
And you can READ in the car as well, just as if you're taking a bus, subway or train. Here's some REALLY good reading: A magical novel about a hidden Indian tribe that has never been published before. And how about this--subscribe today and get a beautiful hardcover novel for less than $5 (but ONLY while supplies last!)