Here’s how you know you’re in a driverless car

Our latest column from William Thomas

The driverless car is coming at us faster than Nick Nolte with the pedal to the metal and an open bottle of rum on the passenger seat. The AV or automated vehicle is truly a transportation revolution and one which the world is poorly prepared for. Like the rush to get legalized marijuana on the streets of Canada and … wait! Can you imagine those two worlds colliding?

“Ah, dude. You just scarfed the last piece of pizza and also … there’s nobody driving this car!”

“I thought Larry was driving.”

“Larry got out at the last set of lights.”

“Yeah, which we blew through!”

Currently 40 companies including Apple and Uber are testing their automated vehicles on California public roads while testing in Ottawa has just begun. Experts expect to see some driverless cars on the road in three years and mass production in five years. Forget cars for the moment, Tesla has unveiled its prototype autonomous truck, the Roadster which will be “the fastest commercially produced vehicle on earth.” A ‘platooning’ system will synchronize the movement and braking of a series of trucks travelling together allowing them to tailgate each other at high speed and save energy.

Wait. Didn’t we already have that system? Remember the Convoy song? “Come on and join our convoy. Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way. We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy cross the USA!” Back then a fleet of trucks speeding down the highway was dangerous and highly illegal. Now it’s the future of transportation!

As usual the revolution is being driven by the machines and not the people. U.S. scientists who altered road signs ever-so-slightly found the AVs missed the instructions 73% of the time and reacted in error. Much like myself, a driverless car cannot understand public graffiti. Volvo’s animal detection system can identify deer, elk and caribou but kangaroos throw it into a tizzy.

Driverless vehicles will transport people, collect garbage and eliminate parking and in so doing, put on an awful lot of people out of work. It could enhance car pooling but also increase traffic congestion and emissions. And nobody can figure out how to program driverless vehicles to get the hell out of the way of police, fire and ambulance services.

No matter, with all the faults and unknown consequences, the AVs are on their way. So where does that leave you? Confused. I know. I’ve got your back. Or is that your front in reverse? Okay, here’s how you know you’re operating in the world of driverless cars.

● You’re a little taken back by Uber’s AV ad that highlights their new mission statement: “Safety Third!”

● You don’t know what to make of the sign on the car in front of you: “Baby Onboard And Behind The Wheel.”

● Watching Blackberry invest $100 million in making software for AVs and remembering how RIM, their parent company melted down in a matter of months – you have your new driverless car refitted at Radio Shack.

● You’re just not sure about the little old lady in the driverless car holding a sign that reads: “Honk Twice If You Think I’m Being Held Hostage.”

● The driverless technology is so advanced, old guys will not be able to drive more than ten miles with their blinkers on.

● You’re uncertain about the Kijiji ad: “Get a pre-owned driverless car for your spouse! What a trade!”

● On your first day with your new AV, the navigational system instructs you to “Please reduce speed and enter the roundabout … No! Not that way! Are you completely stupid? Get me the hell outta this thing!”

● You notice that not only has road rage increased with driverless cars, passengers now have two free hands to make very rude gestures.

● Your driverless car tells you it’s about to change lanes all by itself and you think wait, my AMC Gremlin used to do that but it never gave me a heads up.

● Without warning, your Google mapping system gets into a fight with your Microsoft software and you find yourself flat on your back on the curb with tire tracks on both arms.

● You’re just pulling out of the driveway in your new self-driving Tesla when the news on the radio reminds you that their SpaceX program has had a half dozen launch failures and crashes.

● In Florida where older drivers have shrunk below the steering wheel, AV technology will digitally reproduce the image of a real driver behind the wheel, probably Christopher Plummer.

● The all-new Driverless Popemobile is considered a miracle by the Catholic Church resulting in a new title for Tesla CEO … Saint Elon Musk.

● Despite your protests, your driverless car stops and picks up a hitchhiker who keeps going on and on about how “You off like three or four people and suddenly everybody’s calling you a serial killer!”

And finally, old habits being the hardest things to change, your wife will continue to sit in the backseat of your driverless car and criticize the onboard computer.

For comments, ideas and copies of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to



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