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Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions

Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions

Ralph Nader

The hype and unsubstantiated hope behind the self-driving car movement continues unabated, distracting from addressing necessities of old “mobilities” such as inadequate public transit and upgrading highway and rail infrastructure.

At a conference on Driverless Cars sponsored by the George Washington University Law School earlier this month, the legal landscape of unresolved problems and unasked questions were deliberated for a full day:


I agree with Ralph Nader to a certain extent: the evolution to autonomous vehicle will take longer and be much more complicated than stakeholders like Uber, Google, and the auto manufacturers claim.

However, this next baby step along the way is scheduled to roll out in my humble little burg in 3 months:


I’ll be taking it for a test spin and reporting back this Fall.

The very notion of driverless cars is absurd.
Nevertheless, here they are.
And being promoted by (of course) ethically-challenged companies like Google and Uber.
Of f*cking course.


Thank you Ralph! This needed to be said! As always, you seem to be the only adult in the room.

The fact of the matter is, our nation has made, especially over the past 40 or so years, the choice to not invest in the types of public transit enjoyed by most other First World countries. What would have been best for the people and the environment never seemed to matter very much.

Likewise, we seem to keep talking about improving and renovating basic public infrastructure, but,
barring catastrophe (Example: Katrina), very little gets done, with the exception of privatization of what were previously public resources.


They may be smarter, technologically speaking, but he is infinitely WISER!


We will have to agree to disagree. I will continue to respect Ralph Nader for his integrity, and for putting the welfare of the public ahead of corporations. Mr. Peters’ Libertarian screed notwithstanding!


OMG…Russian hackers will be driving the cars!
Actually Ralph brings up very good points.


I’m not an expert on self driving cars, nor a rocket scientist, but the expectation that self driving cars will be perfected to be flawless under any road or weather conditions, able to go anywhere on the open road safely, for the occupants, as well as for other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, even animals that may appear out of nowhere without warning, seems to be very pie-in-the-sky. Will these cars be able to react to problems that may occur way beyond the next car in line, at a distance that could be visible for a real driver to react safely to, or will it continue on into the car in front when that car finally collides with the pileup in front of him? What about animals that come running out of a field, down a ditch, then into the path, maybe even running into the side of the self driving car. What about inclement weather when a sudden blizzard pops up and all it’s navigation sensors go into WTF mode? I live in a rural area and most all of the roads are either 2 lane, some paved, most are gravel; or just simply old narrow 2 track logging trails that requires the cooperation of each driver to negotiate head on passing at the widest available spot on the trail. How’s the driverless car going to communicate with the opposite driver and determine the best spot to pass? What about the scenario of a parked delivery truck double parked on a city street. Will the WTF mode sensors kick in and simply block all traffic behind the car, being unable to decide what is best, where to go, what to do?

I don’t think the designers and programmers will be able to refine the required parameters to ever produce a safe, economical, self driving vehicle for real world driving. Perhaps on a closed course, maybe, but never within reason on each and every public road. Our roads and highways need continual maintenance to keep from deteriorating, and that costs a lot of money. Would the investment to allow driverless cars on our roads steal dollars from the road maintenance budget needed today?


Ralph, you’re in for a big surprise. Self-driving cars are driving on actual roads today!


The most fundamental flaw of a driverless car: having to move 3000 pounds of matter to transport a person less than one-tenth of the vehicle’s mass ==> 1000+% overhead. To address global warming, we must promote transportation modes with less overhead: Bicycles, scooters, buses, mass transit etc.