A friend of mine recently moved back Los Angeles. He lived in the city of Angels a few years back but moved back to his native Boston and is now doing his second stint in Lala Land. None of this is particularly noteworthy except for a conversation we had just before left LA.
“Conversation” is probably too tame to describe what it was. I think he would classify it as a spirited debate. I would say it was an argument and a near fight. He wasn’t privy to the latter, but I was. And why did the thought of physically assaulting my friend come to mind? I was at my wit’s end with him and another friend as we drove to a gig. In retrospect, maybe they were messing with me. Hopefully, they were messing with me. That would actually make things better for me as then it would all make sense.
While driving, I casually mentioned that cars would soon drive themselves. I think I said in 10 or so years. I said the technology was basically in place but would just need to be fine tuned a bit.
My fleeting thought swelled into a full on debate with me on the side of self-driving cars and them on the side of “never gonna happen” Not only did they question the technology aspect but they also said people would never give up driving. As if it was a second amendment right to put your hands at 10 and 2. On the technological front I assured them that people smarter than us all who work in labs could figure it out. We already had GPS that could tell you to turn at the next light. Why not tell the car directly and cut out the middle man? Also, as a Native New Yorker who would have never learned to drive had I not left New York, I can assure you that they are legions of people who hate driving. People who hate being fully focused and worrying about the carelessness of others…and themselves. I used to read and do homework on the subway. I would pay handsomely to be able to program my car where to go and sit back play Bejeweled and return calls as my car did all the work. In a sense a self driving car would give the masses the ability to have a “driver.” Sitting back and relaxing wouldn’t be reserved for only the rich.
My friends thought self driving cars could never coexist with people driven cars and thus self driving cars could only become a reality if everyone was forced to buy a self driving car. Again, I assured them that some guys in a lab would figure out a way to share the road. Plus, the fail-safes in an “auto”-mobile would be superior to the reaction time of the human mind and body. I felt like I was the head designer of project “Knight Rider” and they were some out of touch CBS television execs from 1968.
Neither side would budge and the tension reached a head when they told me I was talking over them. I reminded them that I was right and thus had more right to talk. (I’ve always had a problem with being clearly right and simultaneously diplomatic.) And so we had to drop it, lest I drop my friends.
That conversation has always bothered me. I remain flabbergasted by their collective wrongness. When Lexus introduced a self-parking car, I thought about calling them but self-parking isn’t driving. Then, when Google tested a self-driving car, I thought about calling them but I was trying to be a better person. Then, when a law was passed to allow testing of self driving cars on actual roads, I thought about calling them. Again, perhaps my energy would be better served elsewhere. Now that my friend has moved back, I think I will be forced to re-open that discussion.
It’s okay to have different opinions but when evidence doesn’t support your opinion, either change your opinion or get new evidence. I hope my friend came back to LA in a self-driving car but I’ll settle for him reading this blog.