I've Seen the Future and It Has No Driver

            Two geezers (about my age) are traveling by automobile.  Charley’s behind the wheel, Sam’s in the passenger seat.

            Sam says, “Hey, you just ran a red light!”

            Charley says, “What, am I driving?”

            I thought about Charley and Sam when I read the recent news about driverless cars.  The head of Ford announced that his company plans to mass produce self-driving taxis and have them in commercial operation by 2021.  Uber, the ride-sharing service, isn’t waiting around for Ford.  It plans to begin testing self-driving Volvos in Pittsburgh in a matter of weeks.  And then, the news that there’s already a self-driving taxi service in operation in Singapore.  A future of obsolete humans is coming faster than you think.

Singapore Driverless Taxi

Singapore Driverless Taxi

            So Charley says, “What, am I driving?”

            And Sam says, “No, you’re not.”

            I’m intrigued by the idea, especially since my wife tells me I am a stubborn driver, one of those guys who hates to ask for directions.  I confess, I am loathe to admit that I don’t know where the heck I am or where I’m going.  But modern technology, in the form of GPS, has already come partly to my rescue.  Now, if I get lost, I blame it on Lillian.  That’s the name we’ve given to the woman whose voice come out of the GPS device.  Lillian was my late mother-in-law, a dear and beloved lady who was very good at giving directions.

            As a person who makes up stuff for a living, I’m always intrigued by people who create and the ideas they come up with, whether they actually work or not.  And my fevered imagination tends to take things to the next level – as in, if driverless cars, why not writerless books?  Just think of a story and it appears on paper without all that typing drudgery.  Or cookless meals, that appear without the mess of pots and pans.  You see where I’m going with this.

            My friend Delbert Earle says his wife is the creative one in his family.  She has invented the pre-soup-stained necktie.  The place where Delbert Earle works has a cafeteria where he and his buddies go for lunch.  Delbert Earle loves soup, but is somewhat challenged when it comes to handling a soup spoon.  His wife got tired of having his ties dry-cleaned, so she opted for if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em.  She put soup stains on all of Delbert Earle’s ties.  Became a trend-setter.  His buddies were taken by the novelty of it – not having to worry about getting soup on your tie -- so she’s doing the same for them.  She offers ties in chunky vegetable, tomato bisque, and gazpacho.  For Casual Fridays, she’s thinking about pre-soup-stained polo shirts.  Like the driverless car, it removes the issue of human error.

            Delbert Earle is fascinated by the idea of the driverless car.  He foresees the day when young women will be able to text on their cell phones, read People magazine, put on makeup, brush their hair, sing along with loud music, and even eat soup while they ride in driverless comfort to work.  But hey, he says, lots of them do that already.

            Let me hasten to associate myself with Delbert Earle in welcoming the driverless age.  No more blaming me for getting lost and refusing to ask for help.  Blame the whole dang automobile.  I will, however, miss Lillian.