During my road trip from New York to Arizona, I started to see Waymo vans along the highway. I first really noticed them in New Mexico. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t know what they were. I just figured it was a company that I was unaware of that used their vehicles as marketing tools. As I got closer to Arizona I began to see more and more became curious. What is that contraption on the roof? What is Waymo? I then realized it was a self driving vehicle. My first thought was “How cool!”. After spending ten days driving cross country, I started to think about how this vehicle would have changed my trip. Some of the drivers I saw had their hands on the wheel, others were eating their lunch or looking at their iPad. My Italian friends from New York would really like this because they could talk with their hands and fully express themselves as they drove.
After the initial intrigue wore off, I started to feel a little uncomfortable traveling along the highway with self driving vehicles. I am glad I didn’t realize what Waymo was earlier in my trip because it now made me a little nervous. As interesting as it sounds, I’m not convinced that I would really like this. Yes, there are times I’ve thought “I wish this car could just drive itself because I’m tired” but I like being in control. I don’t like to be controlled by technology and programmers. I don’t like automated phone messages. I want a real person. I don’t like the cash register telling me how much change to give back. I like to count back the change. I don’t like copy machines that decides how I want my copies. I just want a copy! (My work friends can vouch for that). I want to make my own decisions and not have a programmer think they know what I want or need. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but I like using my brain, being in control and making my own decisions. If not, I can get very testy.
Waymo’s early rider program began in Phoenix within the past year or so which explains why I see many of their vehicles daily. With more questions than answers, I decided to look more into this Waymo. The first thing I saw was the trademark “We’re building the worlds most experienced driver”. Well, I consider myself an experienced driver. I’ve been driving with a permit and license for over 40 years and prior to that I drove tractors and other off road vehicles. What is there experience? Well, I see they began as the Google Car in 2009. Hmmmm….that’s less than 10 years. Waymo “knows the roads”. You are even able to see the roads as Waymo sees the roads based on the screen. Why not look out the window and see for yourself? “Avoid the stress of driving”. I know I’ve had more stress dealing with technology than with driving, just ask Siri.
I think many of the features can help. Some cars already have some of these features installed such as sensors. I think the technology behind this can help to reduce accidents. I am very apprehensive about taking total control from the driver. This extreme seems dangerous to me.
Who is liable in an accident? What is the “drivers” responsibility? Is the company liable? The programmer? How does this work with insurance? What about snow or icy conditions? That’s just the beginning. I would be happy to hear thoughts or experiences anyone has had. Maybe I need to learn more. Maybe I need to try it out. As of right now it makes me nervous and leaves me with many unanswered questions.