The future is here with self-driving cars








A humour piece by Melvin Durai

Tesla Motors, a company that produces high-tech electric cars, recently

gave owners of the Tesla Model S the opportunity to make their cars

self-driving. They can now sit back, relax and let their cars do all the

work, whether it’s steering, switching lanes or waving a finger at other

drivers. Well, perhaps not the latter, but you can bet that’s in the

works: a digital screen that displays angry gestures to other motorists.


To make their cars self-driving, Tesla owners simply had to download

Autopilot software and, just like that, their cars were able to drive

themselves. Meanwhile, drivers like me were filled with envy. I can’t

afford a Tesla, so all I could do was scold my Honda: “Why can’t you be

more like a Tesla? Why do I have to do all the steering?”


The Tesla Model S uses a camera, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to

drive itself.   Each car has 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors that can

sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds. What that

means, of course, is that these cars have much better vision than a human

and can protect themselves from hitting any object. And unlike a human,

they’re never distracted by an attractive figure in tight jeans.


“Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially

dangerous aspects of road travel,” the company says. “We’re building

Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your

safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable.”


It sounds great in principle, but I’m not sure if I’d really enjoy having

a self-driving car, even if I could afford one. The idea of sitting in the

driver’s seat without much to do (except occasionally directing the car)

doesn’t appeal to me. That’s why, when my family travels anywhere, I’m

usually in the driver’s seat, except on those rare occasions when my wife

insists on driving. Having her do the driving is the closest I’ll ever get

to an Autopilot feature. I can just sit back and direct her: “Reduce your

speed. Make a left turn. Come to a stop. Order a burger and fries for me.”


The main difference between my wife and Autopilot is that Autopilot, I

presume, would never tell me to shut up. Actually, the main difference is

that my wife hates to drive on the highway, whereas Autopilot is intended

mainly for highway driving. Just imagine yourself zooming down the highway

at 80 mph, with your hands completely off the steering wheel.


Come to think of it, that’s a scary thought. An Autopilot-controlled car

isn’t infallible and, as Tesla Motors states, “The driver is still

responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.” In other words,

the driver must still pay attention and be ready to take over in case

something goes wrong. But if drivers aren’t required to keep their hands

on the steering wheel, I can only imagine where those hands might be ”“

perhaps playing a game of travel chess, holding a slice of pizza, or using

a cellphone to send a message: “Nothing better than texting at 100 miles

per hour. I love my car’s self-driving feature.”


Next thing you know, the car goes off the road and the driver sends

another text message: “Help! The car is in a lake and it doesn’t seem to

have a self-swimming feature.”


Despite the potential risks, I’m sure Autopilot will benefit a lot of

drivers. Elderly drivers, for example, may be able to continue driving,

even after their skills have diminished. An Autopilot-enabled car can take

them wherever they want to go. If traffic is backed-up for miles, please

be patient. It might be Bingo Night at the Legion Hall.



Melvin Durai is an Illinois-based writer and humorist, author

of the humorous novel “Bala Takes the Plunge.” A

native of India, he grew up in Zambia and has lived in North

America since the early 1980s. Read his humor blog at   Write to him at

Short URL: