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To my car: Take me to work, please
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I slid down into a fiberglass shell that my Mom said looked more like a coffin than a racecar.

It was, in fact, a sleek cigar shaped racer that in the day was considered one of the fastest cars in its class.

Strapped snuggly into this sleek formula car, I was soon turning 125 mph on a track with more than 30 similar racers.

The car I was driving was designed to respond instantly to my every command.

This was pure driving with the highest levels of feedback from the machine, while the road lay only inches below my seat.

There is no finer definition of precision driving and engineering.

I finished 10th in that race.

To this day I still spend some of my free time driving very precision machines around race tracks.

It is a surprise then to my son that I cannot wait to get into the first generation of driverless cars when they actually come to the market.

He does not understand why, if I have such a passion for amazing machines and driving them, that I want to have a computer drive me around in a techno box where I have no input or control.

Pure driving is quite different from transportation and commuting I explain.

One is a highly satisfying sport activity, while the other is simply getting to some place I need to be.

As part of my job I spend much time driving to metro Atlanta and to meetings scattered across Georgia. Most of the time I am stuck in stop-and-go traffic like the rest of the metro population.

We crawl along a few inches and stop - repeating that often for an hour before the traffic breaks free and we actually can move ahead at maybe 30 mph.

It is such a waste of my time and of critical resources.

The average commuter from Dawson County that works in Metro Atlanta spends more than 45 minutes a day, each way, in their commute.

That is an hour and a half a day and almost eight hours a week.

It is estimated that same commuter spends more than $4,000 per year on fuel, insurance, tires and general repairs for their vehicle- not counting the actual cost to buy the car.

Then there are the accidents during those commutes. That can cost money and physical suffering.

How much better would it be to have it all computer-controlled so that I could read, study documents or truly discuss topics with people during the trip.

Driverless cars offer those possibilities.

I could get into such a car and just tell it to take me to work.

It could handle the mundane traffic situations and allow me to address more interesting topics that offer more personal satisfaction.

While critics scoff at the driverless car idea, the tests and prototype development continues.

There are a number of vehicles already on the roads in Europe and here that, if allowed, could drive themselves over major portions of our highways.


Those cars actually have some of their computer systems turned off because we humans are just not ready.

Driverless cars are proving themselves quite capable.

There have been wrecks, but almost without exception the other human driven cars have been at fault. Humans drive too fast for conditions, think they can race through a yellow light and make it, and tailgate even thought they were trained not to.

Even with the exceptional safety record, driverless cars do have some way to go.

Most of the problem is a society evolved around nearly 100 years of human drivers.

How do you prove in fact the car performed correctly and did not cause the wreck?

You were not paying attention so how would you know what happened?

There are still coding issues with how to get the cars to respond to the multitude of incorrect maneuvers humans make while driving cars.

The combinations of stupid driving stunts our brains can conjure up are almost endless.

The day is still coming when driverless cars will be available.

I will be one of those in line to obtain such a vehicle.

Then I can read or just contemplate life as I head for work.

It will be a higher quality day for me.

Of course my precision racing machines will be sitting ready at the track, for those weekends when the actual thrill of driving beckons.

Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.

 

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