America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Your Driverless Car: 2017 FAQ
By Elaine Kendall
23 January 2017
Welcome to JUPITER, and the incredible luxury of autonomous driving! Take a nap for the entire trip; eat, drink (not to excess, because JUPITER has an electronic breathalyzer and will report you). †Relax or work; call your mother, warm up a pizza, pour your coffee †and have a quick ride in the carpool lane. The car is your driver.† Bewildered? Uneasy? Terrified? JUPITERíS help team has an answer for all your questions.
So, is it really driverless? No one sitting in the left-hand seat? I can put my pizza and laptop there? Where would the pizza- warming oven be?
Currently, you should sit in the left-hand seat, but soon you will be able to lie down in the back, which has a memory-foam mattress under the upholstery. There will be no point in sitting in the left-hand seat, because there wonít be a steering wheel or foot pedals in future models. Our JUPITER will start, slow down, stop, drive forward, reverse and parallel park without any action by the non-driver. Though federal regulations in the US still demand that driverless cars must be equipped with wheels and pedals, we expect to overcome that ruling entirely. JUPITER will make all crucial decisions for you. The pizza oven will be included in an option package, currently in development. Till then, take a sandwich.
What sort of engines will driverless cars have?
They will not have internal combustion engines, but will be equipped with ultrasonic sensors, radar, video cameras, and Lidar devices far exceeding human capacities. Lidar not only makes our high-definition maps, but illuminates perils with a dazzling laser beam.†
How does a JUPITER take the written license test?
Your JUPITER is exempt from the written test and just takes the road test. So far, JUPITER has passed 426 different road tests with no errors, scratches or dents and only one fatality. ††
Will there be learnerís permits for the driverless cars? Licenses?
JUPITER doesnít require a learnerís permit, though you must be 21 years of age to be eligible not to drive one. So far, only Nevada and Florida grant licenses, but we are confident that all states will follow suit. In the meantime, our driverless cars will be identified by distinctive neon roof projections.
What happens if I program my JUPITER to pick me up and it gets stuck in traffic?
JUPITER will call you on your cell phone and explain the delay.
Suppose JUPITER has an accident. For instance, another driverless car rear-ends it. Can it get the guilty autonomous carís insurance, garage address, phone and photos of the damage?
No, you would need to do that. The other driverless car might be a ZEUS, and JUPITER doesnít have access to every rival brandís records. Our driverless cars would present their registration and license at an officerís request. That information appears immediately on the carís dashboard screen.
In that case, how would I know? I wouldnít be at the accident scene because Iíd be waiting for JUPITER to meet me. Also, the patrol officers demand that the driver exit the car, and if no one does, theyíre permitted to shoot.
Weíre working on that.
Could the driverless cars call the police or sheriff? Can they call a partner or parents? †Would my JUPITER call me?
All driverless cars are pre-programmed to call 911 if they damage themselves or others. We recommend phoning loved ones in person. †Since youíre not in your JUPITER, you wouldnít be injured, even if the car is totaled. Youíll have a list of contacts as you do with a cell phone.
Are the cars members of Triple A? Could they get towed, flat tires changed, or batteries re-charged?
We suggest calling your local towing company for those services. Triple A has not yet included JUPITER or ZEUS in its membership rolls, though we are certain they will within the year.
Do I need a driverís license to be a passenger in a completely autonomous car?
Itís always advisable to have a driverís license in the US. They are useful for many activities in addition to driving. Lacking one could actually arouse suspicion, even if you live in a city with excellent public transportation.
How does JUPITER or ZEUS make non-electronic crucial decisions? I mean, when you have to swerve to avoid a bicyclist or a pedestrian running across the street?
All JUPITERS have an acute moral and ethical sense provided in their computer chips and far better judgment than most people.† As far as the ZEUS is concerned, youíd need to ask a ZEUS owner how itís programmed to cope with those issues.
How does a JUPITER or a ZEUS know the difference between a dog running after a ball and an object that fell off a truck? Especially if the thing that fell off the truck is about the same size as the dog? Or God forbid, a child.
We have a team of philosophy professors, priests, ministers and rabbis working on this issue around the clock. We are taking it extremely seriously. If you are overly concerned about the ethics and morals of your driverless car, you should just put your name and Email address on our list, and we will activate your order within minutes of solving the problem.
I never asked you how much a JUPITER would cost. Please tell me, even if you have only a rough estimate.
At this moment in time, we predict our first thousand JUPITERS will cost about $150,000.† Of course, thatís our completely autonomous model. We expect the cost to drop considerably after millions of purchases. After that, we will discontinue the manufacture of cars requiring or even tolerating a person at the controls.
If a bit of paint were scraped off the bumper as JUPITER entered my narrow garage, would it still call 911?
JUPITER responds to all accidents, regardless of location. All airbags would deploy instantly. An ambulance and fire trucks would come to your house at once. Your driverless car cannot know the seriousness of possible injuries. Because JUPITER would be programmed to the precise measurements of your garage, chances of this happening are virtually zero.
Thank you, but maybe Iím better off with a hybrid, one that lets me sit in the driverís seat. Only until the highway patrol is re-trained and the ethical issues finalized. Weíll keep in touch. †I really appreciate your time and attention. Youíre certainly the wave of the future, but I donít think Iím a surfer. Not yet, anyway.
A journalist and playwright, Elaineís books of American cultural history were published by Little, Brown, Putnam and Capra; her plays by Samuel French, Smith & Kraus and Art Age. Musical plays are An American Cantata; The Would-be Diva; Isadora! and COLE and WILL: Together Again! Non-musical dramas are The Chameleon; Two Margarets; The Trial of Mata Hari and The Nominee. The ďIĒ Word; Gun Show Follies and Secrets of the Showroom are short comedies. She has written for many national magazines; The New York Times and the LA Times. Current articles appear monthly in the aptly-named online journal The Satirist.