(…but will these be a blessing…or a curse?)

The taxi times are a-changing, but we’re not so sure that’s an improvement.

We’ve seen how the advent of UBER and other services of that ilk have completely disrupted the hail-a-ride profession around the world, thanks to the “app” marvels of this brave new digital world of ours. Most of those who have latched onto it are mostly folks who have the means to pay for one of those “smart” phone thingies (some of which can cost upwards of several hundred dollars, and the services for which come with matching monthly phone bills to boot). Such is modern life in this 21st Century of our era.

Not satisfied with all of that, the UBER honchos are now actively pursuing the idea of using so-called self-driving, or robo-cars, for the service it provides to its users. It’s an inevitable consequence of the ongoing developments in this digital world of ours, which is slowly and steadily intruding more and more into our traditional customs and mores for communications, entertainment, and now…personalized transportation.

Well, some years back in one of our issues we suggested a radical concept for car manufacturers to consider, proposing that they shift to producing a “365 day” car; a car which would absolutely need no further care or maintenance during that time (other than re-fuelling it now and then). Near the end of that period, the user of one of these would receive a warning message saying:”This vehicle will self-destruct in 10 days. Please return it to your dealer now”. After doing so the user would receive a credit for its recycling value, and rather than “buying” another one, would apply that credit to the cost of signing up for another year’s model with whatever amenities desired, and then drive off for another year of worry free personal transportation. As he did so, and looking in the rear view mirror of his new wheels, he would see the old model imploding itself and all its components being collected and fed into some kind of compacting machine to be recycled to produce a new vehicle.

At the time this was as radical a concept as ever, aimed at keeping the auto industry in full production mode, year by year, churning out an endless stream of “throw away” vehicles having such a low unit cost nearly anyone in the world could afford to pay to use one.

Now we have a similarly radical concept, this time for a self-driving robo-car whose proponents claim would all be much safer than the human operated ones we still use today. But we’re not so sure about that. For one thing, while a robo-car may indeed be technically safer, unless every other vehicle on the road is also just like it, and no human factor is involved, that could be true. But as long as some were still under human control…accidents would still happen because the human factor would make it inevitable.

We should also keep in mind that no matter how sophisticated and well engineered computerized automatic systems might be…there are always failures of one kind or another with such systems. Nor can we ignore the proven fact that such robo-cars would also be susceptible to hacking. That is, being cyber-jacked, with its occupants completely helpless to do anything to stop it…while zipping along at 65 mph or more. That’s not a very confidence-building scenario to build absolute trust in such a robotic transport great leap forward.

Granted it could be a most gratifying sensation to be able to enter into such a vehicle, sit down in grand style in its back seat, stretch back, cross our arms, imperiously voice our destination and say…PROCEED…and the robo-car would make it…proceed…whisking us away briskly and safely to our destination…sans tip…truly the ultimate definition of a “luxury” car. Yes, the Uber robo-cars are coming, the Uber robo-cars are coming…but will these be a blessing…or a curse?

Who knows…but meanwhile…those of us who still don’t have or use one of those exploding battery-powered smart phones, we’ll just stick to the old tried and true arm-waving-hail-a-cab system even if after one does show up…we find its driver can only communicate in a language unknown to us, and is apparently descended from some kind of kamikaze lineage, we will continue riding taxis…even if it means we’re risking becoming emotionally nervous wrecks while doing so.