Who remembers The Jetsons? It is one of my favorite cartoons from my childhood. The cartoon family had everything I could ever dream of; a robot housekeeper (Rosie), a Smart Home in the sky, cool outfits and hairstyles, flying cars – you name it, they had it. I really thought it would be a depiction of the near distant future, but like most things from our childhood – it was a pipe dream. There are a few things that came to fruition though, such as the Smart House and Robot Vacuum – one widely more popular than the other. However futuristic or innovative these ideas are, an even better idea was developed only 9 years after Looney Tunes had their debut in 1930. As surprising as this bit of information is, it is even more surprising that we still don’t have the technology correct in 2021 – or at least not to the standards for the people that need it most.
In 1939 Norman Bel Geddes shocked the automobile industry with his outlandish invention, the very first self-driving automobile. The self-automated machine “was an electric vehicle guided by radio-controlled electromagnetic fields generated with magnetized metal spikes embedded in the roadway.” (TitleMax) His invention sparked the interest of General Motors and by 1958 they made Norman’s crazy idea into a reality. In 1977, Japanese expanded on this idea by adding a camera – which relayed road conditions to a computer. As you can believe the technology of the time wasn’t perfect, rendering this vehicle useless with max speeds 20 miles an hour or less. A decade later, German engineers would improve upon this flaw, allowing the vehicle to speed up to 56 miles an hour. Today we have many autonomous vehicles on the road, but are mainly categorized as “semi-autonomous.”
Currently, in the year 2021 the automobile industry has the technical capability for “assisted parking and braking systems, and a few have the capability to drive, steer, brake, and park themselves.” (TitleMax) Autonomous vehicles rely on 2 main components; GPS and advanced sensing systems. This technology is still not perfect, but by 2025 it is estimated that more than half of the automobiles rolling off the assembly lines worldwide, will be autonomous in some form or fashion. With this popular technology already causing problems, more than a dozen states in the US have already prepared legislation ahead of the future automobile market.
Autonomous vehicles are mainly marketed for safety and not for convenience. The meaning of convenience to me is completely different than what most people would consider it to be. Think of how the internet has opened up many new avenues for people whom have had the world shut off from them? Many disabled individuals are grateful that the internet exist, if they didn’t have internet available to them most could not live independently. I know I couldn’t, my independence relies on the internet. I can support myself financially, stock my fridge, order essentials and educate myself without ever having to rely on anyone else. Let’s cut to the chase here quickly – if autonomous vehicles were available to the vision impacted… What couldn’t we do for ourselves?
I’m not even going to get into why autonomous vehicles are better transportation options currently available to people unable to drive – due to a disability. If you have a disability you already know that reliable transportation is a straight up joke. Again, I’m not going to get into it – if you are curious about the previous statement or you think you know better – write me here. No matter how smart the autonomous technology becomes, if you are not eligible for a driver’s license now – forget about owning one of these magical machines. That is the crushing truth behind the autonomous vehicles. It’s a damn shame that people that own them now are using them irresponsibly, making them look like a lazy man’s machine rather than a functional, practical and convenient tool for the disabled.
As cool as flying cars sound, I can’t imagine all the effort it would take to get something like that “up in the air.” Think of all the crazy drivers we have on the ground, but now they are flying aimlessly in the air! That is one idea I would hope will never come to reality, lets just keep the flying to man-less drones, pilots and airports. However there is an age old machine that has been in the works for almost 100 years. It’s safer and fits in with the current flow of normal life. It would bring even more quality of life to the disabled community and moreover the opportunities that this particular community has been shut-off from for so long – will be a thing from the past.
You are quite correct that there is a need, but not just for showing off, so to speak. There are currently self-driving Teslas on showroom floors in Saudi Arabia, and they are safely running in heavy traffic. It can be done, but it requires a commitment to the technology and, sadly at this point, money to buy such a thing. Wishing you all the best! ~ George 😎🚙👨🦽