For the Voice, You'll Have a Choice of William Daniels or Majel Barrett

It doesn't fly, but it still sounds pretty cool. Tomorrow at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, G.M. plans to unveil a prototype of a self-driving car:

The automaker expects driverless vehicle technology to be ready for testing by 2015 and in vehicles that it sells by 2018, a G.M. spokesman, Scott Fosgard, said on Sunday.

"The technology exists right now to move cars without a driver," Mr. Fosgard said, adding that a self-driving vehicle would "know where all the vehicles are around it, dramatically reduce accidents and even reduce congestion."

In a 2007 reason review of Daniel Wilson's Where's My Jetpack?, Katherine Mangu-Ward asked whatever happened to the technological wonders promised by science fiction. On Hit & Run she has called attention to innovations that fall somewhat short of Jetsons-style transportation: an airplane that can be driven on the highway but can take off only at an airport and a hovercraft that's not allowed on public roads. The car that drives itself seems more practical.

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  • Episiarch||

    So is Knight Industries a subsidiary of GM?

  • Ali||

    How is that different from trains? Trains that can move next to each other, is that it? I'd say boring. Scrap it.

    Also, I think the insurance companies may not like it. Who will they blame for accidents if there are no "drivers". The auto manufacturers?

  • ||

  • ||

    What gives?
    I thought the new KITT was a Mustang?

  • Len Nimoy||

    I took a break from shooting photos of fat chicks to doing some voice work for a semi-automated vehicle. My favorite line? "The car--out of danger?"

  • Episiarch||

    My favorite line? "The car--out of danger?"

    "I have been--and always shall be--your car."

    "The needs of the many cylinders outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one."

  • ||

    hey hey, that's Majel Rodenberry to us die-hard nerds. The name "Barrett" isn't canon!

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    I'd buy that one. Especially if the car also includes a Genesis device for collisions.

  • Episiarch||

    Especially if the car also includes a Genesis device for collisions.

    I'd rather have photon torpedoes myself.

  • TLB||

    Neat-o! I can't even begin to imagine any downsides to this plan. It's not like one of the major downsides is one of the first things I thought of or anything. Dynamism, away!

    P.S. I snuck into Reason's HQ and captured this shot (NSFW) of their interns coming to work.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    Yes, photon torpedoes are a fun road accessory, but when I get bad directions and arrive at Red Lobster instead of Bone Fish Grill, it's nice to be able to correct my mistake without going anywhere.

    Also, there's the whole coming back from the dead thing.

  • Episiarch||

    Also, there's the whole coming back from the dead thing.

    Well, if you want to go through Vulcan puberty again, that's fine, but I think you're insane. Besides, who are you going to store your consciousness in before you get killed in an accident? The moose that you hit? Bones won't be there for your convenience, you know.

  • ||

    K-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-T!!!!

  • ||

    TLB,
    I assume you have a release from my in-laws to post that photo???

  • ||

    It's not like one of the major downsides is one of the first things I thought of or anything.

    What... That auto-driven cars will be less likely to run down illegal immigrants crossing I-5?

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    There you would be wrong. Granted, the (excise the "the", if you are feeling pedantic) hoi polloi are doomed, for an additional fee, you can get the LoDoc feature, which places a McCoy-like figure in your car for convenient Katra-depositing and retrieval.

  • Rhywun||

    Just what America needs, a device to ensure its drivers are less skilled than ever.

  • ||

    Rhywun,

    A car is like the government. It should have limits built into it to prevent the insane person at the wheel from doing any real damage to the rest of us.

  • ||

    Frank Black looks like he's pushing that hovercraft to its limits.

  • ||

    for an additional fee, you can get the LoDoc feature, which places a McCoy-like figure in your car for convenient Katra-depositing and retrieval.

    GM will call it the OnBones feature.

    "Hi, this is Katie from OnBones. I see that you've had a near-death experience and need to have your consciousness stored for a short time. Can I assist you with that?"

  • ||

    Ah, OnBones is the superior service.

  • ||

    Who wants a car that drives itself?
    Driving is fun in itself. Having the car drive for me ruins the whole driving experience.

    I mean other than when I am stuck in traffic -- that would be cool to have the car automatically inch up for you while you read a book or something.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom,

    See, you're not seeing the whole picture. Imagine, if you will, a marketplace where one can buy a car and select the car's personality. For example, as a Chicagoan, you might select the Elwood Blues personality. You would then be driven--in all safety--through malls, over bridges, and away from Illinois Nazis. Unless your driving experience is different from most, this should be a net upgrade. Also, you can exchange witty dialog with your car as it careens through the Daley Center.

  • ||

    Sounds cool. Assuming GM is still around in 2018, T hee hee.

  • ||

    SM,

    Oh, I don't think Toyota will shut down the GM brand post-acquisition. How pessimistic you are!

  • ||

    Personally, I'd go with Douglas Rains.

    "Open the trunk door, please."

    "I'm sorry, Akira. I'm afraid I can't do that."

  • Episiarch||

    The greatest benefit of this car, in all seriousness, would be in terms of drinking and driving. Goodbye, DUI bullshit! The government would lose a tremendous source of revenue; the cops couldn't pull you over for any reason and claim you were "driving erratically", and the government would lose the huge cudgel it has in the revocation of driving licenses.

    It would be a tremendous victory for liberty. Which is why I would bet that somehow the government would rationalize busting people for drunk driving even if the car was on autopilot. They'd say it was because you could, at any time, take it out of auto and drive it drunk or something like that. They gain too much power from DUI laws and won't want to relinquish it.

  • ||

    Episiarch, since you can already get busted for having the car off but having the keys in the ignition, I doubt very much that DUI is going to go away.

    I would imagine, too, that the government would mandate you be sober, as I presume a car like this would come with a manual option in case of an emergency with the car's operating system.

    They always find a way, man.

  • ||

    Akira,

    But what good is an AI you have to enter into a life-and-death struggle with every time you want to go somewhere? Though the monolith-shaped garage would be an excellent selling point.

    By the way, flying cars will require automated pilots, so any work in this direction sounds peachy to me. Not to mention that automated driving would probably radically reduce the death toll and make rush hour a lot less painful.

  • ||

    Though the monolith-shaped garage would be an excellent selling point.

    My God! It's full of cars!

  • ||

    Assuming GM is still around in 2018

    My first reaction was, "Nobody who knows anything about cars wants to buy one from GM; maybe these things are supposed to buy themselves, too, and save the company."

  • ||

    See, you're not seeing the whole picture. Imagine, if you will, a marketplace where one can buy a car and select the car's personality. For example, as a Chicagoan, you might select the Elwood Blues personality. You would then be driven--in all safety--through malls, over bridges, and away from Illinois Nazis. Unless your driving experience is different from most, this should be a net upgrade. Also, you can exchange witty dialog with your car as it careens through the Daley Center.

    ProL,

    You've convinced me. I was looking at it all wrong. This is a great idea!!

  • Click \'n\' Learn||

    As further proof that this is a "libertarian" site, no one above seems to have figured out the major downside to such a scheme.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom,

    Just avoid cars utilizing the Carrie Fisher personality. And be sure to get the cop tires, engine, and suspension upgrade.

  • ||

    The greatest benefit of this car, in all seriousness, would be in terms of drinking and driving. Goodbye, DUI bullshit!

    Of course, the downside is that the drunk version of you enters in the desired address/coordinates and ends up in downtown Akron while sleeping it off.

  • Rhywun||

    Having the car drive for me ruins the whole driving experience.

    Personally, I hate driving & if this car were anything other than the usual car-show fantasy I'd run out and get one.

  • ||

    For example, as a Chicagoan, you might select the Elwood Blues personality.

    Yeah, but then the damn cigarette lighter won't work.

  • ||

    TLB,

    You mean, that the computer would tell the government where we're going and automatically drive us to jail when we've committed a crime? No avoiding that. A friend of mine got busted by his Roomba the other day.

  • ||

    Cars without drivers?

    And how is that functionally different from my usual commute around Atlanta? Seems like half the idiots on the roads here are already occupied with something other than driving.

  • Gahan||

    So who gets sued when this thing runs over a kid? I don't care how smart the car is; if somebody or something jumps out in the road at the last minute, it's not going to be able to stop in time any more than a human driver would. And rest assured that no matter how stupid the pedestrian was, the new technology will take the blame. Something tells me that making this technology "completely safe" will involve making it drive half as fast as my grandma and stop every time a tennis ball bounces across the street a hundred yards away.

  • ||

    no one above seems to have figured out the major downside to such a scheme.

    Okay, guess number two...

    Illegal immigrants will no longer need driver's licenses, eliminating yet another way they can be hassled?

  • Guy Montag||

    Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these things?

  • Guy Montag||

    PL,

    Auto pilot takes all the fun out of flying. Even all of these crazy "assist" systems take the fun out of flying.

  • ||

    Guy,

    Your right to "fun" ends where my right to flying cars begins. My first words back in the 60s were, "Hey! Where the hell are the flying cars?"

  • ||

    """ A friend of mine got busted by his Roomba the other day.""""

    LOL.

    Nothing like your vacumn cleaner sucking up your stash, and reporting you to the cops.

    I picture the Roomba picking you out of the police line-up, "yeah, that's the guy." or is it yelling, shoot 'em as the SWAT team enters your house.

  • ||

    It really sucks to get busted by your own Roomba.

  • ||

    I picture the Roomba picking you out of the police line-up, "yeah, that's the guy." or is it yelling, shoot 'em as the SWAT team enters your house.

    Don't laugh. Roomba appears to be made by a remarkably schizophrenic company...

    Have a dangerous mission? iRobot will help you tackle it

  • lunchstealer||

    Wait a second. Did TLB JustPost about something that Wasn'tImmigration?

    MikeP. That dangerous mission can include cleaning your gutters, with the oddly named "iRobot Looj".

  • ||

    As iRobot further embeddens (new word--sue me) itself with the military, expect more strange behavior from Roombas and their ilk.

    Here's a prediction: One day, as Osama is watching his Roomba sweep his gave, he'll get a surprise as his fully operational Roomba shoots him.

  • ||

    As iRobot further embeddens (new word--forgive me) itself with the military, expect more strange behavior from Roombas and their ilk.

    Here's a prediction: One day, as Osama is watching his Roomba sweep his gave, he'll get a surprise as his fully operational Roomba shoots him.

  • ||

    Hey, now! See how I mysteriously double post when daring to reveal iRobot's insidious plans? This is how the Planet of the Robotic Vacuum Cleaners gets started.

  • pham nuwen||

    Bah, I want the voice to be Waylon Jennings

  • gary||

    I don't think GM's way is the future, but I do believe we will ultimately remake our transportation system into one that's fully automated. I see it as something like this...

    www.PRTProject.com

    The advantages are just too good to pass up. You get a much safer system that can be fully electric without the need for bulky batteries.

    Oh, and I pick Majel Rodenberry.

    gary

  • ||

    I pic 7of9. Jeri Ryan, raaawrrr.

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