'Smart' Cars That Drive On Their Own Freak Me Out

Linda Sharps

Never mind Jesus taking the wheel, in the future it will be our robotic cars taking over in the event our sub-par human reflexes aren't up to the task. A team at MIT is currently developing an "intelligent transportation system" so your car can anticipate what nearby motorists are about to do—and warn you if danger approaches.

If the situation warrants, the system will actually take control of your car in order to help you avoid a collision. Or maybe it'll set a new course for the nearest Jiffy Lube, which I presume is the vehicular equivalent of a Starbucks.

The idea is to create cars that have the ability to not only assess road conditions, but predict human driving behaviors. Robot cars will perform complex algorithms in the blink of an eye, compute the potential for collision, and take evasive action accordingly.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Like driving KITT in Knight Rider? Except for the part where your car inevitably malfunctions and drives you directly into a brick wall.

I'm thinking of my current car, a VW Touareg, which has all kinds of whistles and bells constantly on the fritz. Most of the electronic systems in my car have had problems at one point or another, and I'm constantly getting warnings that I have, for instance, a TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEM FAULT. I drag it to the dealership, they do some kind of high-tech mojo, and everything's fine for a few months until OH NOES FLAT TIRE.

I'm just saying, if we're talking about a car that has the ability to decide when it's going to usurp control of my steering wheel and brakes—I'll pass on being a beta tester, thanks.

Another interesting/mildly terrifying development: theoretically, when more than one car on the road has this new intelligent system, they'll be able to communicate wirelessly to broadcast their positions and help avoid crashes.

Next we'll have cars checking into locations via Facebook. After that, Skynet becomes self-aware. Final step: DOOM.

What do you think, would you buy a car that could drive itself?

Image via Flickr/Tommy and Georgie

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