Google's Self Driving Car

Will I need to learn to drive a car, before the autonomous vehicle makes it obsolete?

I don’t know how to drive a car.

I’ve never had lessons, I got a provisional license around my 16th birthday that I never used, and I don’t really want to start now.  In fact, I am wagering that I will never have to.  Here’s why.

I grew up in the UK – a surprisingly small island with high population density, entirely walkable cities, and (despite our whinging) excellent public transport.  For the most part – I didn’t need to learn to drive.

Then I moved to the US.  The United States is a country that is probably the most car-culture nation in the world – and everyone told me that I’d need a car, need to finally bite the bullet and learn to drive.  However, I was in Boston, which, for those unfamiliar, is an older city, more European in style and design.  A city not designed from the ground up as a car paradise (indeed, people who drive in Boston generally hate its narrow, winding, streets).  It has a train/subway system called “The T” that would shuttle me around the main districts of the city and its satellite towns and cities almost as fast as a car would do.   It too, was a very walkable city – with neighborhoods snuggled next to supermarkets and corner shops and pubs.

Still, I did not drive a car.

Now, however, I am faced with a greater challenge – I have moved to LA.  A huge and sprawling city designed for, and around, the car and its user.  A city notorious for its horrendous traffic and ever-present valet parking.  Everyone, everyone, I talk to is telling me that I will have to get a car.  No-one, they tell me, can survive in LA without a car.

But here’s the thing – I’m in a relatively tightly packed part of LA.  I’m looking for an apartment within walking distance of my office (always my first priority – life is too short for commuting).  I get all my grocery shopping delivered (something I picked up on in the UK and continued to do in Boston).  I’ve started using Uber for any longer, or more awkward trips.

Really, though – I am playing chicken with Google.  You hear that, Google?  I’m wagering that I can hold out; that I can live, and live well, without a car, long enough, that by the time that it would be impractical, Google or someone like them will have made autonomous vehicles a practical part of daily life.

Needing to drive a car, I feel, will be a curious blip on the history of the human race – something that lasted 3 or 4 generations and then went obsolete – like typewriter repairmen or knocker-uppers.  Your great-great-grandfather didn’t need to know how to drive a car, and it’s likely your (grand-)children won’t need to either.

Come on, Google – lets see if you blink first!

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