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TheStreet Open House

Why Self-Driving Cars Will Be Unacceptably Lethal

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There is a very specific reason why self-driving cars will not become successful or acceptable until we completely get rid of the human being behind the wheel. As a result, self-driving cars are further out into the future than currently anticipated.

Those of us who are technology geeks find self-driving cars fascinating. It's almost a goal in itself. Others are simply lazy or bad drivers and just want to be relieved of their duty to drive, just like other people are lazy in general and don't want to work.

Let's start with this premise for the self-driving car future on the horizon: There will be a human being behind the wheel who must be ready to take over on a split-second notice, if the car's computer can't handle the situation.

With this premise in mind, ask why people want a self-driving car in the first place. They say they want to focus on other things, such as doing work or engaging in social media.

We immediately encounter contradiction number one: If you are doing something else (reading or writing or equivalent), then you cannot be adequately prepared to take over the car on a split second's notice. You have no idea of the traffic situation.

One of the things we do when we drive our current cars is we look around constantly. We look in our side mirrors, in the rear-view mirror, we survey the cars, pedestrians, bicyclists and other traffic actors so we can anticipate any sudden and irrational moves by others.

For example, by constantly looking in the mirrors, I know if there's a car approaching from behind in the lane beside me, so I can know whether I can make a sudden maneuver into that lane if a (motor)bike were to suddenly fall in front of me. If I don't know what's approaching me from behind in the lanes to the right and left, I don't know what kind of sudden maneuver I can make to avoid the new emergency surprise. A bad accident could result.

In the self-driving car scenario, the point seems to be that I shouldn't be engaged in any such monitoring activities. I'm supposed to be reading or writing or something of that kind. But then I can't be prepared to take over on a split second's notice!

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