Following up on my friend nd colleague Daviot Kelly's well-placed rant against auto-drive autos, here's this screed from Fast Company
What will we get up to in our cars when they drive themselves and we have nothing to do? A new study
looks at the possibility that we will use the time to be more
productive, spending those saved minutes on work tasks, hacking through
our to-do lists, and getting things done. It finds this is unlikely.
The paper, from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the
Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, finds
that the self-driving car will be a pretty bad place for getting
productive, thanks to three main problems. One is that many U.S.
citizens won’t be able to get any work done. According to previous
studies by the authors, 23% refuse to ride in an autonomous car, 36%
think they would be so scared that they’d do nothing but watch the road,
and a handful suffer from motion sickness. In total, that’s 62% of U.S.
citizens who won’t get anything done.
The final reason is the most compelling. The average journey is just
too short to get much done other than checking Twitter or Facebook some
In time, we'll get used to our cars doing the driving. We may be
terrified to begin with, but humans are pretty good at getting bored and
acclimatizing to perceived risk. Look at air travel for a great example
Right now we all face forwards, and safety features like airbags and
seatbelt are designed with this position in mind. In the fully
autonomous vehicles of the future, we no longer need to sit in
front-facing rows. We could have beds, or easy chairs, or seats that
allow us to face other passengers. But, says the report, "not only would
many of these nontraditional positions and postures vary considerably
from the optimum for which the restraint systems were designed, some of
them also have the potential to be near-worst-case positions or
Safety, then, will have to be re-thought as cars morph to fit their
new purposes. But that, too, can be solved. The biggest barrier to
productivity then, is that we just don’t spend that much time in our
cars. Or rather, while we spend an average of an hour per day driving
around, the average journey only lasts 19 minutes (around 9.5 miles)—not
enough time to open up a spreadsheet and start deciding on the best
font to use for that report.