Old-School Autopilot Still Wins

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I’m a fan of autonomous cars, but every once in a while, it strikes me how much hype they get, especially compared to “old-school autopilot” that I think is actually still a much, much better option.

As you might guess from the pic, what I’m calling old-school autopilot is riding without worry in trains, trams, and buses, or even in the passenger seat of a car. The extra fun here, too, is that trains and trams are often electric (and buses and cars can be, and should be).

Yes, the trains, trams, and buses need to be convenient, comfortable, and high-tech enough that they attract rather than repel riders, but it’s genuinely not that hard to make them so. Overall, the amount of space, ability to walk around (and perhaps even use the restroom), and general freedom permitted in a train, tram, or bus is just hard to compete with. How could autopilot in a passenger car compare?

I’ve been planning to write this article for a year or so, but it’s probably good that I delayed it since I just went on a few long drives with Tesla Autopilot. It was cool, it was fun, and it reduced the normal stress of driving to some extent. But it was no train, tram, or coach. The level of comfort from being a passenger in a train is probably 10x higher than driving a Tesla with Autopilot.

Driving around at all after so many years of car-free life makes me wonder how people put up with so much unproductive time (driving, driving, driving — it sucks away so much free time!). Driving with Autopilot compared to riding a train or tram is like having to go find a landline anytime I want to make a call, or having to pull out a paper map anytime I want to find someplace new. Sure, much cooler than smoke signals, but nothing compared to a smartphone.

Photo by Jorge Láscar (some rights reserved)

I know, it sounds crazy — autonomous driving tech is some of the coolest, newest tech around. Everyone wants it. It is the neatest feature you can get in a car today.

But why drive cars? Why lock yourself into a position where you can hardly do anything else … for hours and hours and hours on end?

I’m not going to say I don’t enjoy a bit of driving, especially with a Tesla! But, yeah, if you want Autopilot, jump into a train, tram, bus, electric taxi, or passenger shuttle.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7290 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan