Driverless cars are going to ruin everything. Sure, their relentless focus and perfect driving will reduce traffic fatalities by 90 percent. Yes, they’re going to make getting to work stress-free. But they’re doing all this by getting rid of drivers and if you think they’re going to stop there, you’re wrong. As the technology behind intelligent cars gets better, the things we find familiar will disappear because we just won’t need them anymore. If you’re a fan of the following seven iconic car attributes, you better enjoy them while you can because they’re on their way out.
7. The steering wheel.
First to go. Not only will we never need it, we’re not qualified to use it. Humans are terrible drivers. We invented the head-on collision! Just Google Russian Dash Cam (don’t do it now–there are six more entries!) and watch in horror as car after car plows into everything from a truck full of cows to a T-90 tank. Human drivers are distracted, prone to sleep, and regularly let anger take the wheel. In the historic timeline of intelligent automobile history, we’re a design flaw. Intelligent cars know this and the first thing they’re going to do is gently pry our knuckles off the helm then make sure we never, ever put our hands on it again.
Gone. Won’t need ’em. Because cars won’t run into each other anymore. Our robotic overlords see everything with laser-like focus. Actually, they see everything with lasers. They’ve trained hard to develop reaction times so sensitive and so fast they’re practically psychic. Traffic won’t be about lanes. It’ll be a swarm. An intersection in 2045 will be a hypnotic blistering boil of vehicles zooming past each other at top speed with inches to spare–never breaking, never slowing down, never hesitating, swerving, or tailgating.
Our insectile buggies (heh, see what I did there?) are already using lasers and sensors to build a 3D map of their surroundings. They won’t be using the obsolete eyeball technology employed by humans because humans can’t see in the dark or around corners or into time itself. Robot cars will do all those things and they’ll do it blind at midnight under a new moon because they are jacked-up four-wheeled versions of Daredevil.
Also backs. You and I can only see in one direction because we have a bipedal front facing carriage. So do our cars. But driverless car computers don’t have front-facing bodies. They don’t have any kind of body. Consequently, an autonomous vehicle doesn’t have to face the way it moves. When your future Uber rolls up you’ll step inside, prop up your feet, and tell it to play your favorite show. Then the car will zip off the way it came. It won’t do a three point turn or go around the block to avoid that crazy left turn by the hardware store or get stuck backing into your neighbor’s driveway. It has no direction. It moves whichever way it has to.
Because safety. Windows are the bane of automobile designers. How can they make a car safe when there’s a giant hole in the front? And on the sides. And in the back. Windows are stupid and driverless cars won’t have any. But don’t worry. The inside of your intelligent car will be one giant seamless monitor playing the passing landscape in real time. Unless you want something else. Just as we can turn our desktop into an aquarium, we’ll have options for our smart car. Want to drive to work underwater? Can do. Or in outer space? Roger that.
And drivetrains and gearboxes and oil and grease and gas and all the stuff that makes cars dirty and mechanics happy. Driverless cars will be electric, probably getting their power from the road itself. The computer controls their speed. It controls their acceleration. It talks to the cars nearby to check their hustle. A separate electric motor will drive each wheel. That means the engine will disappear and it’ll take all of car culture’s weird macho talk with it. You’ll never hear a guy in 2035 talking about his 320 Hemi or how much torque he got out of his new Dodge. He’ll be bragging about processing speed and RAM.