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Self-Driving Autonomy Threatens to Kill Your Driving Experience

There’s a difference between a driving experience and riding experience. Driving gives a sense of control. Driving is an experience that permeates the driver’s body through visceral feeling and response from the vehicle. A rider’s experience, by contrast, is much different and more attuned to comfort and destressing. Full self-driving autonomous vehicles threaten to kill the driving experience. 

Full self-driving will increase safety and make things boring

Cruise Self-Driving All-Electric Car
A robot car of the General Motors subsidiary Cruise is on a test drive | Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

There will always be people who prefer the visceral feel of driving. The sense of control and the feedback provided from the tires on the road and from modulating power through feel on the accelerator pedal is what most of us have grown up with. However, fully self-driving vehicles are in the future. So, driving may become less involved, increasing in similarity to the rider’s experience instead.

This may not happen soon, though. For now, the self-driving feature has a long way to go gain trust as a safe way to travel in a vehicle. According to a study by the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), there is a strong distrust this early in the game for the feature. Our friends at The Verge dove into the statistics and found

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans say autonomous vehicle technology “is not ready for primetime.”

About 48 percent said they would never get in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle that was self-driving.

Another 20 percent think autonomous vehicles will never be safe.

Only 34 percent think the advantages of AVs will outweigh the disadvantages.

Only 18 percent are eager to get on a waitlist for the first AV. 

Full self-driving autonomous vehicles are not something afar off. Speculation used to run wild with people just a handful of years ago saying it wouldn’t happen in their lifetimes. However, the speed at which many manufacturers are moving forward with the technology implies that the feature could be less than 25 years out. Some Tesla fans might say it is available now. But, level 5 autonomy certification has not been approved yet for any manufacturer. 

Every car will drive the same?

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Full self-driving vehicles may be great for safety and making the riding experience more restorative, but others will find their experience in a car with it, lacking. Don’t get me wrong, arriving at a location fresh is good. But, what is the point of having a Porsche 911 if the exhilaration of driving it hard from time-to-time is removed? It might as well be a Ford Explorer. People buy the Porsche 911 for driving enjoyment, but full self-driving autonomous vehicles will replace that vigor and excitement with safety protocols that follow algorithms. So, in theory, all cars regardless of manufacturer, will drive similarly through pre-set patterns. 

The conundrum, to drive or to engage self-driving

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In short, the full self-driving autonomy feature that will become available soon threatens to make things docile or kill the driving experience altogether. Thankfully, initially, self-driving systems will have overrides. This means that drivers can retake control of the driving experience as they prefer. But, why would anybody pay more for the feature if they are going to continually override it. That seems self-defeating for the wallet. To decide if it is worth it, drivers are going to need to decide if they prefer a driving experience or a riding experience? Alas poor Yorik, a conundrum doth lay before drivers.