Remember when thinking about the future meant Twilight Zone music and Astro from the Jetsons and Marty McFly on his hover-board? Remember when Orson Welles convinced the world aliens had invaded and Spielberg made people cry in A.I.? Remember when texting wasn’t a thing and the “smart” in smartphones meant “neat”? The future has always been a mix of fear and excitement.
Self-driving cars have received a great deal of both: pure joy at the thought of reading the paper during rush hour and sheer terror at riding shotgun to a machine. But as a parent, I’m all for the self-driving car. I’ll be clapping from the sidelines when these things go mainstream and I don’t think I’ll be alone. Here are six reasons that will make every parent root for the self-driving car.
1 | Independence
As a mother to a son with special needs who will most likely not be able to operate a vehicle, I’m raising my hands in hallelujah to anything that can bring him independence. Imagine it’s like hailing a cab, but it’s your cab and always at the ready. He will have freedom to storm out of the house or meet up with friends or simply go to dinner by himself.
As a daughter to parents whose driving habits are slowly but surely raising my blood pressure, I’m ready for them to have the option of some safe back-seat driving. They can get out from behind the steering wheel without giving up the control.
Self-driving cars bring independence and freedom for those who might not have it otherwise. They also take the pressure off us, the would-be chauffeurs.
2 | Free hands to parent
Everybody always needs something the minute the seatbelt clicks. Put the car in drive and suddenly every bladder is full, every tummy is hungry, every toy and shoe has dropped beyond reach, and everybody is bored.
Until they install a soundproof limo window in every car, I’m rooting for the self-driver so I can quiet the cries and meet the needs en route. Imagine the fights that would cease and the car games you could play if your eyes didn’t have to be on the road.
3 | Naps all around
You know that image in your mind’s eye of the exhausted parent driving aimlessly through town at 2 a.m. so the baby will sleep? Imagine if you could sleep too.
This is my dream, my waking wishful thinking, that nap time can be enjoyed by kids and grownups alike. I’m not talking a cross country all-night snooze, but a five-minute power nap now and then couldn’t hurt.
4 | Working commute
I dislike public transportation for many reasons: the grab bars in the subway that are somehow always filmy with an unknown substance, the close standers, the coughers, and the talkers. But I was never more productive than when I rode the rails. It’s amazing what you can get done when you’re trying to avoid eye contact with twenty strangers on a twenty-minute commute.
Now imagine if you could have this any day in the privacy of your own car. Forget rush hour traffic expletives. You’ll be buzzing through your inbox and reading the news highlights with your favorite Spotify playlist.
5 | Gas money
Do kids still ask for “gas money” these days? I would if I could.
As it is, I scout gas stations like a ninja for the lowest prices. I will not tell you how far I’ve driven in the name of 2 cents, nor will I admit the illogic of it.
But if self-driving cars really can make the trip more efficient with their steady drive, then I’m saving time, stress, and money. Win. Win. Win.
6 | Safety first and teen drivers
Do I really need to say anything more? Yes, it is important that teenagers master the art of parallel parking, lane navigation, and the ten-and-two hand position on the steering wheel. But it’s also nice to know that if they are out late or up early I won’t have to worry about tired eyes behind the wheel, or texting eyes for that matter. I want a world where every other driver isn’t weaving like a drunkard while trying to find the right emoticon.
I know there’s a great deal of hype, both positive and negative, about the self-driving car. I understand the fear of giving technology one more foothold in an already technology-driven world. But as parents, you have to admit, if the car comes equipped with snooze time, work time, and play time, the pros are looking pretty good from our end.