Column: Happy to let technology take the wheel

The day of the driver-less car can't come soon enough for Times editor Brenda Anderson

It’s official, we are living in the future.  Or we very soon will be.

And while, yes, that’s always the case, today there’s reason to be excited about it.

Plans now exist (in theory, at least) to introduce self-driving cars on the highway between Seattle and Vancouver.

It will be done in phases, with the intent being to eventually dedicate a lane to driverless automobiles.

And maybe one day, we’ll be able to eliminate human drivers from the equation altogether. The sooner that day arrives, the better, I say.

Imagine all the things that Type A personalities could get done during the two and a half hour journey if they didn’t have to bear the burden of paying attention to the road or other traffic.

They could read and write exhaustive reports, prepare for important meetings, practise yoga or file their taxes.

The rest of us, meanwhile, will be able to indulge in a couple blissful extra hours of sleep or binge watch Netflix as we roll safely down the highway at (one assumes) the posted speed limit.

If a quick scan of the latest police report tells us anything, it’s that there are lots of things drivers would rather be doing than watching the road.

Police handed out a staggering $37,000 in distracted driving fines in a single day along 200 Street earlier this month.

Whether it’s applying eyeliner, eating a delicious soft taco (while avoiding messy drips), sending and reading crucial texts or “just checking the time, officer,” people clearly have plenty going on that requires a level of concentration which leaves them little ability to give their full attention to their actual surroundings.

After several recent incidents — including two relatively near misses — with speeding and impatient drivers, I’m more than happy to let the robots take over. Especially since it appears even the risk of a $368 fine isn’t enough to quiet that inner voice that says, “this text or my perfect cat-eye is the most important thing that exists in this moment.”

Inattention may be one of the greatest risks on the road, but it certainly isn’t the only one.

Potential medical emergencies or the chance of confusing the gas for the brake will no longer put others’ lives at risk.

Imagine how much safer we’ll all be — whether we’re inside the vehicle or navigating our way through traffic on foot or bicycle — when the human element is removed.

And, as an added bonus, there will be no need to study for or renew your driver’s licence.

Not everyone is comfortable with new-fangled technology, but others, like me, clearly long for it.

Take, for example, a story I heard as a kid about an older couple who bought a fancy new motorhome with all the bells and whistles, and hit the open road.

At some point, he was driving while she was in the back making lunch.

When she told him the meal was ready, he supposedly set the vehicle’s cruise control, got out of his seat and went back to eat — with predictable results.

In the version I heard, the vehicle simply went off the road and came to rest safely in the ditch.

I have no idea whether there’s any truth to the story, which made the rounds back in the 1980s, as the speed regulators were beginning to gain popularity. But if there is, that’s certainly the ending I prefer.

We can safely assume that it was him driving, because a woman would have read the instructions that came with the vehicle and understood the limitations of the cruise control function.

Then again, he might argue that he was just a man ahead of his time.

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