10 Reasons I’m Super Excited for Autonomous Driving

Autonomous Driving
The cabin of Nissan's autonomous car concept allows passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride

Why you’ll like it too

The federal government isn’t known for being quick on the uptake. So I was sort of surprised when US regulators announced this week their support and guidelines for autonomous driving. But I was really glad.

I’ve had the chance to ride in semi and fully autonomous cars as well as drive cars with semi-autonomous features. And, I’m in love. For so many reasons.

So here’s what you need to know, what you’ll realistically see and how this will make your life better.

1. Less traffic

Wouldn’t that be a dream? That might not actually be the reality but it will feel that way. With cars regulating speed and following distance, and with traffic volume information supplied to municipal systems, traffic will flow better and feel less congested.

2. Use less fuel

This goes hand in hand with the less traffic idea: If traffic is flowing rather than stopping and starting, or just stopping and idling, we’ll all use less fuel. This is true on highways and even more on surface roads; think about all the stopping, starting and idling you do getting across town and catching every single traffic light.

3. Fewer jerks on the road

Again, utopia! With the car doing the driving, all those angry people can stop getting all up in your tailpipe and spend their time in the car sending hateful, anonymous Tweets. 

4. Fewer crashes 

With cars regulating their speed and distance from each other, and looking out ahead, beside and behind the car, they can see a potential crash and prevent it. We don’t call them ‘accidents’ any longer because more and more, they’re not.

5. Never be late again

Elena Ford

Ford Pass phone app gives users new mobility options, from finding parking spots to arranging rides. Photo: Scotty Reiss

You decide to go to your sister’s for dinner, so you put her address into your app, it calculates your route and travel time and tells you when to leave. It can also monitor your trip and let your sister know when you will arrive. No more listening to her grumble about your punctuality.

6. Less stress

Driving can be stressful, but eliminate the need to constantly prepare to brake, impatient tailgaters and purely bad drivers, and voila, your drive is stress free! Autonomous driving might not take all the impatient, bad drivers off the road, but I’ve experienced this with adaptive cruise: you don’t notice them as much.

7. More quality time behind the wheel 

Drive when you want, and let the car do it when you don’t. While there may be—at some point in the future—cars that fully drive themselves, they’ll be the minority. So you can decide: Feel like putting it in gear and enjoying the curves and hills of Hollywood? Go for it. Feel like looking at funny cat videos with your teen while crawling along the 405? You can do that too.

Autonomous Driving

The fully autonomous Ford Fusion with a LIDAR system installed on its roof. LIDAR is the detecion system that can see lines, signs, pedestrians and more. Photo: Scotty Reiss

8. Lower insurance rates

Your poor insurance carrier. They are going to have to find other sectors that demand claims adjustors, legal staff and risk managers. Self driving cars will be so focused on self preservation and accident prevention that claims (and rates) will decline. Thankfully for your insurance company, there’s climate change.

9. Less worry about teen and elderly drivers

Strap your darling teenager into her seat, hand her the keys and know that the car is going to take good care of her. That goes for your mother, too. Drivers who are not as experienced or are starting to lose abilities such as hearing or the mobility to turn and see cars in the other lane will have a nice safety net. The biggest challenge might be getting elderly drivers to use the technology (and teens not to).

10. You’re still in control

Autonomous driving will depend on infrastructure including lines on the road, transponders delivering information from traffic signals, information being transmitted from other vehicles and more. But systems can fail, and when they do, we are here to take over. Think of yourself as Han Solo, letting the ship do its job but you take charge when you can do it better.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss