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Driverless cars

2005-09-05 16:25

John Oxley

I'm not surprised he finds it an attractive proposition.

Thinking drivers have long been the bane of motor sport organisers around the world, especially when they argue against rules and decisions that seem to be made without any recognition of the competitors or the long-term impact of new rules on the sport.

So getting rid of them has to remain a goal for authoritarian rulemakers.

But I'm not going to dwell on racing regulations, especially in F1. Enough has been written already, especially about the controversial tyre rules - so instead I'd like to delve deeper into the concept of a driverless racing car.

It's not a new concept. Some people have long been talking about getting rid of the human brains inside a racing car.

No navigators

For instance, I well remember former South African rally champion Jan Hettema - who was also a racer of no mean ability - acclaiming that he would rally without a navigator if he could.

"Navigators can only lose rallies, they can never win them" was his favourite saying in the Pretoria Motor Club bar on a Friday night, especially after a couple or three glasses of brandy and water.

Well, even with the advent of satellite navigation we still seem to require a navigator with brains alongside the "ace" rally drivers, although quite often the poor navigators - or co-drivers as they are known these days - don't even get a mention in the results.

And despite Jan's assertion, I've never heard of a navigator making a car roll, or jumping a car so high that it lands on its nose...

It takes a very special driver to do that, all by himself! The problem, say some, is that the drivers' brains aren't where they should be.

But can you imagine if we had driverless cars - not just on the racetrack, but on our roads.

All routes could be computer controlled so it would be impossible for cars to crash into each other.

No more drunk driving

Drunken driving would be history, and speeding equally extinct as each car would be programmed to obey speed limits. So there'd be no need for traffic cops, either.

Women could do their makeup all the way to work - thus saving on valuable time, particularly in the morning - and cellphone use would soar as people could get on with their business long before they reached their workplaces.

Taxis would be programmed to only accept the number of passengers they were designed for, and only to travel in the lanes they are supposed to.

Trucks would stick to the near-side lane, and would be quite happy to travel one behind the other, leaving a reasonable gap between.

There couldn't be any road rage, and swearing at other "drivers" would be pointless, since they wouldn't be able to hear!

Of course, it's all a dream - or in my case, since it would put me out of a job, a nightmare!

For fact is, there would be no profit in developing a computerised transport system that was totally stable and didn't require regular upgrades.

And when the computer crashed, as it undoubtedly would, well so would all the cars...

  • John Oxley started his motor sport career as a navigator before moving over to the driver's seat. Some say he didn't have the brains for it.


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