This past Tuesday, I had my first ride in an autonomous car. The anticipation for me was a bit like a kid waiting for Christmas. But when I shared my enthusiasm with friends and colleagues, many thought I was crazy. A few warned me to make sure my life insurance was paid in full before getting into the car. Others seemed to think I was boarding something like the Starship Enterprise and perhaps envisioned Captain Picard saying “Make it so” as we began the ride.
In reality, the Audi A7 looked pretty much like any other car on the road. The most amazing thing about the experience was how un-amazing it was. When I thought about it, it seemed a little odd for the car to change lanes on the highway all by itself. But the actual experience of changing lanes was at least as smooth as with any human driver.In fact, rather than seeming like a great leap forward, the hands-free highway driving felt like just another baby step in a line of continuous progress. Long ago, we made the switch from manual transmissions to automatic. More recently, we’ve benefited from lane assist technologies and self-parking cars.
I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed at how normal it all seemed. I’m ready for a car with no steering wheel and a conference table in the back. But that’s the tech geek in me and it’ll be a long time before most people are ready to go there.