a day with a self-driving car
Enthusiast

Rise of the Robots? A Bay City Story About a Day with a Self-Driving Car

Kimberly Alters is the managing editor of SFGATE, and has been enthusiastically covering the digital scoop from coast to coast for quite a few years now. During the holidays, she made a few of her close friends a bit jumpy with a brief video clip she sent them. She had been sitting in a self-driving Waymo car, and the viewer could clearly see that the car’s steering wheel was moving without any guidance. After seeing Waymo’s cars on the road in the Bay City last August, she was dying to know what an all-inclusive cruise on one was like.

A Day With a Self-Driving Car:

It was right around Thanksgiving of 2022 when Waymo secured their permit from the California Public Utilities Commission to finally provide rides to the public. Anyone is free to download the Waymo One App. This allows users to then secure their spot on a wait list to eventually become a Trusted Tester. She began her journey on a corner in the famed Haight District. A few minutes later the White SUV avoided a few barriers and eagerly pulled up to get her. As she climbed in it was time for a brief reality check. She was going to be putting a massive amount of trust in the technology of tomorrow.

Flying Nearly Solo’s First Impressions:

A robot voice wished her a happy holidays, and then Kim was briefly reminded to buckle safely in. Here it was noted that the ride turned out to be incredibly comfortable. She settled in while realizing navigation through tight areas was going remarkably well. The necessary stop at traffic lights along with maneuvering around parked cars wasn’t an issue. Overall, a pretty intense situation was conquered. A stopped truck along with a car hurriedly backing out of a driveway was handled with grace. Resulting in a comforting sense of control.

Impressions of the Speed at Which Things are Moving:

When confronted with the premise of a self-driving car, the consumer of today will naturally wonder about other technology features. You can sync your own music with a Google account, easily adjust the temperature, or quickly reach human customer service help. While you are stopped, a bubble appears above the animated car to “synthetically” show what color the light was. Here it was brought up that many other consumers have wondered how this “revolutionary” idea has affected the already frenetic labor pool.

Around ten years ago when Uber and Lyft became commonplace, many hard-working immigrants were distressed when the old-school taxi market was disrupted. The unions that were in place to protect cab drivers were raising hell. However, the rideshare model proved to provide more than expected when it came to genuine flexibility. The support on board for multiple languages functioned well too.

Analyzing The Ambitious Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Technology:

Waymo will certainly face a few struggles as they lay a foundation. They will need to devise a plan to lure customers that have been sold on other apps tethered to humans. After surveying some of the most frequent users, the quiet break from the day’s duties obviously is rewarding to many. As so many people have felt that they suffered from isolation during the pandemic, being alone is not always favored. Car buffs and frequent commuters alike are mulling over just what it will feel like to remove yet another human from a daily rite of passage.

Riders could generally feel that the efficiency offered by services such as Waymo is stellar. Entire networks of computers allow for real-time analysis and communication, which can make for finding the best route quickly. Self-driving vehicles also could be excellent options for disabled and elderly riders. A 2017 study completed by Ruderman Family Foundation concluded that self-driving cars could effectively provide nearly 2 million individuals with disabilities proper transportation.

Would a completely self-driven world be feasible?

For any of these positive aspects of self-driving cars to be widely relative, many critics say that ALL vehicles would have to operate minus the human touch. This acts to strip drivers of their independence, which many Americans may not be too thrilled about! Public transit, trucking, and many delivery services would face extinction. Another concern about a completely self-driven society is security.

Things could get serious quickly if there was a cyber breach of an autonomous vehicle network serving the public. This particular passenger was impressed by her time spent in a Waymo car. Although, she thought it felt a bit like something from a dystopian world as well!

What do you think of Kim’s self-driving car experience in San Francisco? Are you looking forward to cars “taking over” and doing even more of the work for us? Or does it worry you a bit? Please tell us in the comments below, or check out another article about how self-driven cars are helping with parallel parking.

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Jon Weirman
I am a freelance writer in the Midwest who specializes in vehicles built for expert-level off-roading, and anything with a staggering amount of horsepower. In my first life I worked in broadcasting for Starz Network and Discovery Channel. I also love retro video games and sci-fi movies. Everything from the loud and burly muscle cars of the late 1970s to new crossover SUVs with futuristic tech features have populated my inbox!

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