A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
By Nina Pajak
I am not what one might call a “good driver.”
In fact, I’ve been called a bad driver on more than one occasion. My blind spot is roughly the size of the state of Kentucky. I have terrible depth perception. I can’t see properly at night. I can’t parallel park for beans, and once actually handed my keys to a passerby who had been attempting to guide me into the spot, so that he could just finish the job. Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid any major collisions, the worst being an eensy weensy rear-ending (my fault), which ended in my bursting into tears and the “victim” comforting me and pointing out that only my car sustained any damage, so she’ll just be on her way please stop crying get it together seriously it’s not that big a deal.
In summation, I hate driving. In my early twenties, I developed the paralyzing fear – or, conviction – that I would very likely be killed in a car crash. I think all those years of my mother’s voice in my head warning me about the dangers of reckless teenage driving stemming from an “underdeveloped sense of mortality” finally clicked. So now I feel not one iota of the sense of freedom and power and virility and authority and speed-lust others do when behind the wheel. Mostly, I feel anxious. I picture myself accidentally losing control and plowing into the median, or sailing over the side of the highway or off a bridge, or mowing down a crosswalk filled with pedestrians. I just generally want it to be over soon, and I sing along to the radio loudly to distract myself from my severe agita and terrified paranoid delusions. TMI? Sorry, I quit therapy a few months ago.
Anyway, this was all to lead in to the fact that in spite of all this, I still find the idea of the self-driving car to be an insane futuristic notion brought foolishly to life by overeager (very, very smart) people who watched Men In Black one too many times. But now that I’ve acknowledged the dangerous extent of my distaste for driving—and here I ought to mention my predictable delight in being driven places by someone more confident than I—it’s possible I need to give this idea a little more respect.
While my instincts tell me that cars that can gauge traffic and required speed and incoming interference and possible dangers will ultimately fail us in the fiery, bloody, life-ending sense, I have to leave room for the possibility that the computers programmed to drive better than us could actually drive better than us. Human error is a pretty dangerous thing, after all. I should know. And while computer error is scary in its absolutely mystifying and unpredictable nature, and in its ability to simply shut down or fritz out completely in a way that few humans do, perhaps it would yield better results overall.
Also, they can’t be any worse than your average cab driver!
Ba dum dum.
Or, perhaps all the cars will eventually turn into evil Nightrider-HAL 9000 hybrids which take us hostage in our own vehicles and eject us from our seats with ejector buttons we didn’t know existed and fill the interiors with deadly fumes until we agree only to buy premium fuel and to feed them our firstborn. You know, so that they can enslave the human race, and also for funsies. Like that horrible car in the Jared Galleria of Jewelry commercial. Come on. What kind of automobile wants a gaudy diamond necklace? You really think that was her endgame? I seriously doubt it.
Okay, I oughtn’t watch science fiction. I always get bored and drift off and then come away with mistrustful and half-baked fantasies involving robots enslaving the human race. Fine, I’m in. I’ll try a self-driving car. But, you try it first.