Innovations in Self-Driving Cars Are Making My Childhood Dream of Owning a Car like K.I.T.T. a Real Possibility

When I was a kid, I loved loved loved watching the show Knight Rider. Even when I was too young to really get the sexy factor of David Hasselhoff in his tight leather pants, I wanted to be in his world. What was drawing me in? K.I.T.T. I wanted that car so badly. I used to pretend he was mine and run around outside make-believe driving him. Now, I use the term driving him loosely because what made K.I.T.T. cool, besides his ability to talk to you, was that he could drive himself. K.I.T.T. was a jet black Pontiac Trans-Am that had a red light sensor that moved back and forth in an almost hypnotic sort of way. Every time Hasselhoff’s character, Micheal, got into trouble K.I.T.T. would drive to the rescue. This car was beyond amazing. How could anyone not want him? I’m getting happy flashbacks just thinking about it.

The thing about fantasies that rarely do they come true. In TV land, it’s possible to come up with all sorts of gadgets and there are no limits to innovation. However, in the real world that simply isn’t the case. Our ideas are constrained by our scientific understanding and technological capabilities. However, as we’ve often seen in the realm of science fiction, many things do eventually become science fact. Fortunately, cars that drive themselves are one of them.

“Will this help the greater good?” One up-and-coming technology that really might have an impact on the greater good is self-driving cars. Self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce pollution, increase green spaces, give us all hours back in our day and eliminate the leading non-health-related cause of death. – Kevin BatchelorComplete Merchant Solutions

Interestingly, not everyone is as excited as I am to have self-driving cars or other autonomous vehicles as part of their reality. The University of Michigan recently conducted a public opinion survey of consumers in the US, UK, and Astrialia, Here’s what they found:

  • The majority of respondents had previously heard of autonomous or self-driving vehicles, had a positive initial opinion of the technology, and had high expectations about the benefits of the technology.
  • The majority of respondents expressed high levels of concern about riding in self-driving vehicles, security issues related to self-driving vehicles, and self-driving vehicle not performing as well as actual drivers.
  • Respondents also expressed high levels of concern about vehicles without driver controls; self-driving vehicles moving while unoccupied; and self-driving commercial vehicles, buses, and taxis.
  • The majority of respondents expressed a desire to have this technology in their vehicle.
  • A majority was also unwilling to pay extra for the technology; those who were willing to pay offered similar amounts in each country.
  • Females expressed higher levels of concern with self-driving vehicles than did males.
  • Females were more cautious about their expectations concerning benefits from using self-driving vehicles.

As a single mom, I would have loved to have had a self-driving car when my son was a baby. There is nothing more stressful than being on the highway sandwiched between to large trucks, trying to focus so that your little compact isn’t smashed to bits, while your newborn infant is screaming in the backseat. Having a car that could drive itself would have been such a reprieve.

“The main implications of these results are that […] while expressing high levels of concern about riding in vehicles equipped with this technology, (participants) feel positive about self-driving vehicles, have optimistic expectations of the benefits, and generally desire self-driving-vehicle technology when it becomes available” (Schoettle and Sivak 2014)

Self-driving vehicles at CES 2019

There were times when I had to travel for hours between NC and DC with my infant by myself and needed to pull over to eat, or change him or feed him. For me, it was very uncomfortable having to pull over on the highway and hop in the back seat to take care of my baby. All I could think of was getting car jacked or worse raped. Some might say why not just go to a gas station or someplace else. Well, I was raised that as a black woman riding alone on southern roads, you don’t just pull up to places you don’t know. If I would have had a car that could do the driving for me that would have been one less safety issue I would have had to worry about.

People who are on the fence about self-driving cars need to really consider the positive impacts that having these cars can have on our everyday lives, especially single women. People who are afraid of this technology might not be considering just how these cars can protect us from the very real and known threats that already exist.

Check out this cool car I saw at CES in January. It’s the Mercedes Urbanetic Van, an autonomous van with swithchable bodies that allow owners to easily swap from when they need to carry people to when they need to carry groceries. CRAZY!!! I know there are always reasons to be cautious when adopting new tech but I for one am very much looking forward to the day when I can have my very own autonomous vehicle and my fantasy of owning a car like K.I.T.T. becomes a reality.

Mercedes Urbanetic Van
Autonomous driving platform with switchable bodies!
Photo credit: Mercedes Diane Griffin