2016.06.16 Scrumpeter in Sheeps's Clothing?

It is so cute!!!

I am trying in vain to denote the voice reserved for pictures of puppies, bear cubs, and fawns staggering around on wobbly legs.

The "cute" should have been superscript, but evidently there is a bug in my software.

That is OK. After all, it is just text on a website. But what if it was a bug in my cute self-driving car's software?

If you are in the vicinity of San Antonio Road, Palo Alto/Mountain View/Los Altos, chance is that you will see either different versions of this cartoon car (or the bigger Audi) with their blue domes on the roof.

We used to see the Google Streetview cars; their roof adornments were even stranger. You may recall that they were not so popular in Europe a while back. Something about picking up unprotected wifi content. Currently the Indian Government are reluctant to let them take pictures for Streetview India.

These days, I notice if I haven't seen a self-driving car whenever I drive on San Antonio Road - I even got the street sign into the picture because this really is ground zero for Google cars. Last weekend I saw seven while waiting barely five minutes for some friends.

We all agree that these cars will disrupt transport as we know it. There will be no need for parking structures close to office buildings - you can just send your car over to park itself out of town. If you even have a car. It may be Uber on steroids - the driver-less car closest to you can be called through an app.

There will be no truck drivers when the trucks drive themselves. I have yet to imagine an electric engine strong enough to take a loaded 18-wheeler over Sierra Nevada, but if so, goodbye to truck stops, gas stations, mechanics. Just a few hands to change the batteries.

Tesla has already shown how that can be done in less time than it takes to fill up a tank of gas; we have taken the first yards driving down the road to eliminating gas stations. They will soon be as far between as post offices.

With self driving cars there will be no more erratic morning commute drivers. Technically, there isn't even need for 65 miles/hr speed limits. Reaction time in a networked traffic pattern is negligible and we could all go a uniform 100 miles/hr on the freeway.

Somebody wrote that with the people in the car not paying attention to traffic, why not start a business delivering breakfast directly to the car? I recall waiting for ferries in my childhood. A mobile gas station was driving between the lanes ready to fill up your car while you were waiting for the ship. Now there is a bridge - and somebody can fill you up. Meals on Wheels, indeed.

You won't really need a driver's license. The kids can take themselves off to baseball practice. (In the near future you will have to schedule when to talk to them since the time together in the car will be limited.)

Parents probably want to have some influence on the route as the kids could take themselves three states over instead. Or at least drive as far as the battery lets them.

Not only do I remember the ferries; I also remember when the police cars had blue lights on top of the squad cars. I still react when I see the top of a Google car over another car and have to remind myself that, no, San Antonio Road doesn't sport police cars to this extend. Ironic, that the first responders probably will be the only cars without that blue dome on top.

But if the cars are network controlled, the police can just stop them or control them remotely - they don't need to chase up and down the freeway.

Technology evolves. We have to legalize how we use it. And plan for The Law of Unintended Consequences. Like how do we keep hackers from taking control of the network - and drive us or our kids three states over? Or what happens when a fawn on wobbly legs gets on the freeway with cars going 100 miles/hr? Or power outage?

I guess Google needs the cars to be cute because the implications of self driving cars are not all equally friendly.