I do like my Apple “smart phone.” The device has plenty of apps, bells, music and lots of stuff I have no idea how to use.
One place where the phone comes in really handy is when I am in a strange city and a friend calls and says, let’s meet at the Pirate’s Hangover. I punch the button and ask my Siri, “Give me directions to Pirate’s Hangover.”
Although Siri usually complies and gives me turn by turn driving directions to the party, I like to still check paper maps if there is time. The map gives me more of a complete picture than just obeying the computer’s orders. Also, I hate to be the one to tell you, the computer can be wrong.
All this makes me less than enthusiastic about Google’s experimental driverless car.
I suppose the idea is you can plop down in the back seat, punch in your destination, work, take a nap or text message to your heart’s content, while the driverless car takes you to work, home or dinner.
Details are not encouraging.
While the first test cars will have manual controls for the test drivers to override the cars' autonomous driving systems, the bulk of the fleet will be cars that drive on autopilot and have no steering wheel and no gas or brake pedal.
“There would be no way for an occupant to take control in an emergency; occupants would be captives of Google’s technology, completely at the Internet giant’s mercy,” John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director wrote.
Google has said the cars will be safe. They will have sensors that eliminate blind spots and look in every direction for more than 200 yards. The top speed of the first vehicles will be limited to 25 mph.
Even if Google or an existing auto maker masters the safety issues and you are content to putter along at 25 miles per hour, there remains the question of where is the beast taking you?
Some buddies and I were on a golf trip to Hot Springs a few years ago. We were to play one of the courses at Hot Springs Village.
None of us had been there, but no problem. I looked up directions on MapQuest and we left the Arlington Hotel with plenty of time to spare. Following MapQuest’s directions, we avoided the main gate and were looking for a side entrance to the complex.
At first, everything went well. We zipped out into the countryside. We found the road to take off the highway. It was when the pavement went from blacktop to gravel, we began to doubt.
We passed a small church and a few farm houses. I am not sure how far out in the hills we had wandered, but some of the guys said they heard banjos.
We finally turned around. At an overpass, we spotted a small road with a keypad controlled gate. We asked a lady who was exiting if the Isabella course was nearby and she just shook her head. We circled around to the main gate and received directions to the golf course.
When we reached the parking lot, we motored over the overpass and could see the county road Mapquest had put us on. Apparently MapQuest had planned for us to use the access road by the overpass, but the Hot Springs Village folks thought differently.
Of course, the guys have never let me forget that morning and anytime we plan a trip, no one really trusts my directions. Consequently, I don’t really trust Google or MapQuest.
I can just see myself in a car with no steering wheel, brake or gas pedal driving into a remake of “Deliverance.”