For as long as we've enjoyed driving and owning automobiles as a society, we've also dreamed of cars that can do more. Flying cars, invisible cars, cars that can talk, and of course, there's submarine cars. But Silicon Valley is bringing us closer and closer to another long-held dream… self-driving cars.
Around the Shocks.com offices, we've been having an internal debate as to the relative merits of submarine cars versus driverless cars, and the whole question seems to come down to your own priorities for cool features. Do you long to tear through the streets of some foreign city, careen off the end of a fishing pier, and then cool flip a few switches to convert your ride into a kick-ass submersible? Well, Google's self-driving car isn't going to help you much there. If, however, you were really happy when the auto industry coined the term "infotainment system," then the opportunity to experience every car trip as a passenger might be just what you've always wanted. Simply kick back, say "OK Google, take me to the Clippers game," and watch ESPN the whole way there. It's like a taxi driver you don't have to talk to!
But that brings us to another question which has seen much debate around here: what does the advent of self-driving cars mean for those of us who love to drive? Will driving become a purely hobbyist and/or professional endeavor? Just a handful of men and women spending their weekends autocrossing, and Lewis Hamilton tearing up the F1 circuit? Would we ever watch driverless cars compete in a race? Well, maybe if they were equipped with weapons in a Monaco-meets-the-Hunger-Games kind of situation that would actually be pretty cool. Even with the potential awesomeness of Battle Bots on the Autobahn, it's hard to imagine a future where self-driving cars don't lessen the number of qualified drivers on the road. I wonder if Car and Driver will replace their "Save the Manuals" campaign with new "Save the Drivers" buttons.
On the other hand, there are those who see the opposite future—one in which car companies only need to build a handful of super-efficient practical self-driving models, and can therefore set their designers free to build really amazing vehicles to serve a burgeoning market of driving enthusiasts. Think they might build a submarine car?