Human Driving Extinction Debate: The Case of AI Self-Driving Cars


By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

What is your relationship with driving?

Kind of a curious question, I realize, but it goes to the heart of the matter about whether you are someone that craves being able to drive a car or instead consider driving to be a burdensome task that happens to be a necessity. Ponder for a moment where you fall on the spectrum of driving interests, consisting at one end of the gamut are those that are extremely passionate about being able to drive and at the other end are those that would just as soon not drive if they could avoid doing so (perhaps even abhorring the act of driving).

When I was in college, I had one friend that loved to drive. He would drive a car for any reason whatsoever.

One day, we wanted to go to the lower part of the campus, which involved about a five-minute walk, an easy downhill jaunt from the upper campus, and he offered to drive instead of walking. This was kind of crazy because we would first have needed to walk to the parking lot that housed his car, and once he drove us down to the lower part of campus, he’d need to park in another parking lot down there. In the end, we would have ended-up walking to and from the campus parking lots, which was a cumulative total distance greater than if we simply walked directly to the building on the lower campus that we wanted to visit.

It didn’t matter to him, since he was focused on driving. He relished driving. No matter how short or far a distance involved.

On another occasion, we were joking about driving from Los Angeles up to Berkeley to visit the famous Cal campus up there, possibly doing so because we had heard that there was a pizza place near the UC Berkeley campus that had the best slices in California. This would be a six-hour drive, in each direction, driving up and driving back down. We were joking about it. He offered to go and get us some of that pizza. The drive time was an attractor to him, allowing him to have even more time behind the wheel.

When I was first learning to drive, I remember that my grandmother was someone that did not favor the act of driving. She sternly cautioned me that I should avoid driving on freeways. Her logic was that the freeway was a last resort way to get to someplace and the speeds were so dangerous that I should take side streets instead of using the freeway. She also counseled me to try and group together my driving tasks, doing them back-to-back, rather than going on separate trips. This advice was based on the notion that I would then be on the roadways as a driver for a lesser amount of time.

For the getting of groceries, my grandmother would drive to the local grocery store once per month, buy all the supplies she needed for about a month, and then drive home. The distance each way was maybe five miles. Not very far at all. Yet, she hated driving and was only doing the once monthly trip as an absolute “survival” necessity, getting the food and other items that she needed for a month at a time. If you sat in the car as she drove, you could see her hands clutching the steering wheel with a deathlike grip, her head pushed forward, her eyes intently scanning the surroundings, and the sweat coming down her forehead as she clearly disliked having to drive.

In between those that love to drive and those that hate to drive are those that are somewhat ambivalent about driving. They will drive as needed, not fearing it, nor craving it. Essentially, driving is a chore. When the chore needs to be undertaken, so be it. No qualms. If they were to choose between driving a car and not driving a car, it would be an economic kind of decision as to whether driving was a more rational way to get to their destination or not.

I was working at a major entertainment company based in Hollywood and the firm opted to have a New York City (NYC) based executive of the firm switch to working in Los Angeles. When he first arrived, I met with him and we chatted about the differences between Los Angeles and NYC. He mentioned that he did not own a car. I told him that having a car in Los Angeles is pretty much a must-have.

He then somewhat embarrassingly told me that he had never driven a car. Having grown-up in NYC, he had never seen a need to learn to drive. He normally used the NYC subways and cabs and felt that driving a car was unnecessary for him. He hoped that in Los Angeles he could use our public transportation system and ridesharing to get around. I politely indicated that unlike NYC, the Los Angeles area is not really a mass transit kind of place, and the odds were that he’d eventually realize that driving is a fundamental condition of living here.

Within about two months, he got his driver’s license, started actively driving, and bought a car. That’s Los Angeles for you.

Driving Is A Privilege, Not A Right

For those that do drive a car, they often are quite strong willed about their perceived “right” to drive.

There are some people that seem to think that driving a car is a constitutional right, which is a misnomer. I am not sure why there are people that believe they have a right to drive. I’ve heard some claim that it is a basic or foundational right of all humans. Some say that driving is a core aspect of freedom, meaning that we are apparently all born to be free and driving is part of that moral immutable all-mankind code.

Let’s be clear that by-and-large there is no viable “right” of driving. It is not in the Constitution. In the United States, driving is considered a privilege. This means that there is a governmental authority, usually the states, upon which there is a granting of the privilege to their citizens that they can drive a car.

Since it is a privilege, this also means that the granting authority can invoke it, or the authority can revoke it, or the authority can suspend it.  Most states have requirements for you to be granted the privilege to drive, including requiring you to take a test, provide evidence of insurance, and take other steps to fulfill the stated requirements. Once you’ve jumped through the needed hoops, you are granted the driving privilege.

If you abuse the privilege and violate the restrictions, the granting authority can opt to suspend your privilege of driving. For example, this could happen if you are caught and convicted of drunk driving or being DUI. There are many ways in which you might have your driving privilege suspended. Likewise, the granting authority can revoke your driving privilege altogether. In some rarer instances, your driving license might have driving impositions imposed, rather than being suspended or outright revoked.

Once your driving privilege is suspended or revoked, or if you never had it invoked to begin with, it is generally illegal for you to be driving a car. I point this out because there is nothing that physically bars you from driving a car per se. You could still get behind the wheel, but you’d be driving unlawfully. In California, someone caught driving without a valid driver’s license is subject to being prosecuted as a criminal and could get up to one year of jail time.

There is another myth about driving that many people harbor, namely that they falsely believe that the privilege of driving applies only to driving on public roads. These people are apt to quickly claim that they can drive without a driver’s license as long as they do so on a private road or on any private property. I hear people say this quite often.

They could be mistaken. It is up to each state in the USA to decide what posture the state wishes to take as a granting authority about the driver license requirements concerning private roads and private properties. In Mississippi, it is against the law to drive DUI anywhere, including both public and private property. In Connecticut, driving recklessly is banned on both public and private property. Overall, the granting authorities tend to have various rules about public versus private property, providing a bit more leniency or exceptions if you are driving on private property.

Sometimes there is confusion too about what private property consists of, in comparison to public property. You drive your car on public roads to a local mall. The mall is owned by a private company. Once you drive from the public roads onto the mall property, and drive around the mall parking lot, are you now driving on private property or public property?

You would be tempted to say that you are driving on private property. That’s not often the case. In California, a private property that is open to the public, such as a mall parking lot, becomes bound generally by the rules of driving that apply to public property. The logic being that the private property is being used in a manner consistent with a public property, and therefore the state wants to ensure that the driving there be under the umbrella of public property driving rules.

Being Protective Of The Driving Privilege

My college buddy would have told you that he would fight to the ends of the earth to keep his privilege to drive. My grandmother, in spite of her hesitation about driving, would nearly be as earnest in her support for the privilege to drive. Whether you like driving or not, most people seem to be willing to acknowledge that driving is something that people should be able to do, as long as they do so responsibly.

My children were eager to get their driver’s licenses. In our society, earning the privilege of driving is a kind of rites of passage. There were many of their peers that wanted to get a driver’s license, even though they had little or no intention of actually driving, at least not right away. Having a driver’s license suggests that you have become an adult, though the requirements often don’t require that you must have reached the legally stipulated age of an adult. It is a cultural notion of adulthood.

I had used the word freedom earlier. For many drivers, the privilege of driving is a form of personal freedom. It provides a vital personal means of mobility. They can go where they want, when they want, and don’t need to rely upon others to do so. When my grandmother got older and was no longer a viable driver, it was devastating to her that she no longer had the privilege to drive. It was more than the act of driving, it was her spirit and view of the world was wrapped into the capability of being able to drive a car.

The act of driving involves not merely the technical motions of maneuvering a car, it also includes a basket of other societal and cultural elements. You might drive because you enjoy it. You might drive because it gets you to work. You might drive because you can. You might drive to show-off to your friends. You might drive to socialize with others. You might drive to rush to a hospital because you need urgent care. And so on.

Currently, we are a car focused society. It permeates most aspects of our daily lives.

There are some analysts that say we are perhaps weaning away from driving and toward being driven.

Gen Z is said to be eschewing owning a car. They are growing up with a ridesharing approach to transportation. This means that they are used to someone else doing the driving. This seems to be fine with many in the Gen Z segment. Baby boomers and Gen X appear to be continuing to cling to their driving privilege.

This raises in interesting question. Will the newest generation and future generations perceive the act of driving in a different way than most of the rest of us do today?

As the existing and older generations expire, will society shift toward a less vital perspective about individuals being able to drive? Maybe society will consider driving a “profession” such as being a chauffeur, like a cab driver or a ridesharing driver, and the everyday person won’t drive, or not drive much.

When this topic comes up, there are some that will exclaim that you will take away their driving privilege over their dead body. You will pry the steering wheel from their cold dead hands. That kind of resistance is often heatedly offered.

Why would there be a potential movement to somehow undermine the driving privileges that we enjoy today?

What stokes these passionate drivers about being upset of having their driving “rights” denied to them?

As I’ll describe in a moment, the topic of AI self-driving cars often gets this kind of visceral reaction about human driving as a potential for being on the chopping block. Some are worried, very worried, seriously worried, gravely worried that human driving might become extinct.

AI Self-Driving Cars And The Human Driving Debate

What does this have to do with AI self-driving cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI software for self-driving cars. At many AI and Autonomous Vehicles (AV) conferences, attendees often bring up whether or not human driving is going to last or not. This is a topic that can rapidly devolve into a muddied shouting match. I’d like to instead offer some calm thoughts on the matter.

Allow me to elaborate.

I’d like to first clarify and introduce the notion that there are varying levels of AI self-driving cars. The topmost level is considered Level 5. A Level 5 self-driving car is one that is being driven by the AI and there is no human driver involved. For the design of Level 5 self-driving cars, the auto makers are even removing the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel, since those are contraptions used by human drivers. The Level 5 self-driving car is not being driven by a human and nor is there an expectation that a human driver will be present in the self-driving car. It’s all on the shoulders of the AI to drive the car.

For self-driving cars less than a Level 5, there must be a human driver present in the car. The human driver is currently considered the responsible party for the acts of the car. The AI and the human driver are co-sharing the driving task. In spite of this co-sharing, the human is supposed to remain fully immersed into the driving task and be ready at all times to perform the driving task. I’ve repeatedly warned about the dangers of this co-sharing arrangement and predicted it will produce many untoward results.

For my overall framework about AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article:

For why AI Level 5 self-driving cars are like a moonshot, see my article:

For the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see my article:

Let’s focus herein on the true Level 5 self-driving car. Much of the comments apply to the less than Level 5 self-driving cars too, but the fully autonomous AI self-driving car will receive the most attention in this discussion.

Here’s the usual steps involved in the AI driving task:

  •         Sensor data collection and interpretation
  •         Sensor fusion
  •         Virtual world model updating
  •         AI action planning
  •         Car controls command issuance

Another key aspect of AI self-driving cars is that they will be driving on our roadways in the midst of human driven cars too. There are some pundits of AI self-driving cars that continually refer to a utopian world in which there are only AI self-driving cars on the public roads. Currently there are about 250+ million conventional cars in the United States alone, and those cars are not going to magically disappear or become true Level 5 AI self-driving cars overnight.

Indeed, the use of human driven cars will last for many years, likely many decades, and the advent of AI self-driving cars will occur while there are still human driven cars on the roads. This is a crucial point since this means that the AI of self-driving cars needs to be able to contend with not just other AI self-driving cars, but also contend with human driven cars. It is easy to envision a simplistic and rather unrealistic world in which all AI self-driving cars are politely interacting with each other and being civil about roadway interactions. That’s not what is going to be happening for the foreseeable future. AI self-driving cars and human driven cars will need to be able to cope with each other. Period.

For my article about the grand convergence that has led us to this moment in time, see:

See my article about the ethical dilemmas facing AI self-driving cars:

For potential regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For my predictions about AI self-driving cars for the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, see my article:

Returning to the topic of driving as a human privilege, let’s consider the various ways in which this topic comes up when also discussing AI self-driving cars.

Some Claim To Replace Human Drivers Entirely By AI Self-Driving Cars

I’ll begin with the elephant in the room. There seems to be a contingent of pundits that often will get people agitated by saying that we should replace all human drivers with AI self-driving cars.

When stated in that manner, it certainly seems like a rather stark proposition. Definitely has the potential to get the blood boiling.

The rationale is usually predicated on the belief that AI self-driving cars will be safer as drivers than are humans. It is assumed by these pundits that by eliminating human drivers, there will be a complete elimination of all driving related injuries, deaths, and property damages that come from car accidents or incidents.

This is the Holy Grail of AI self-driving cars, at least according to such pundits.

We ought to carefully unpack such an incendiary claim.

The first point to consider involves the timeframe involved in this claim. The proposition is often stated as though starting tomorrow we will round-up all driver’s licenses and toss them into a mighty bonfire. For those of you that relish driving your car, apparently by the end of the week you’ll no longer ever get to touch a steering wheel or use the pedals of a car, again, ever again. Sorry, but it’s for the good of society, tough luck to you.

I think this is either unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) used to get a knee-jerk reaction and have a shock effect. That being said, I know some that have lost a loved one via a car accident, and for which they are desirous that no one else ever suffer such a loss, therefore the AI self-driving car seems like a welcome way to ensure that others don’t have to undergo what they have had to deal with. Those people are doing what is in their hearts, and sincerely believe in the idea of getting human drivers out-of-the-loop of driving.

The thing is, realistically we are decades (at least) away from being able to even consider doing what they are proposing.

There are about 250 million cars in the United States today. About 15 million or so new cars are sold each year in the United States. If we had true Level 5 AI self-driving cars, how many years would it take to gradually do away with the existing stock of conventional cars and bring into the marketplace the new Level 5 self-driving cars?

Would we need to replace all 250 million conventional cars with the same number of AI self-driving cars? Some argue that with the gradually shifting trend towards a desire to use ridesharing, we presumably won’t need to replace all 250 million conventional cars and some lesser number of AI self-driving cars would suffice, since they would be used on a shared basis.

Okay, if that’s the case, how many AI self-driving cars would there need to be in circulation? It still has to be into the many millions of cars, double-digit or low three-digits, so let’s pretend for argument sake that it is say 100 million such AI self-driving cars.

Do you realize how long it would take to make that many cars? And how long it would take for people or companies to purchase such cars and put them into use?

There is a thing known as AI self-driving cars at scale.

This means going far beyond merely handfuls or hundreds of AI self-driving cars and moving toward having thousands and hundreds of thousands of them. Millions is a whole another level of scaling. We are right now working on the baby steps. Dealing with millions upon millions of AI self-driving cars is very far off on the horizon.

It is an act of fiction to simply assume that if you can make one AI self-driving car that you can just crank out millions of them and put them onto our roads. This is a fallacy of logic.

There is another perspective that says the number of AI self-driving cars might become even higher than the number of conventional cars in-place today. In essence, maybe we might end-up with maybe 300 million AI self-driving cars and no convention cars, over time. Why?

Because there is the “law” of induced demand. When you make available a new means of transportation, what can happen is that the suppressed need of transportation can emerge. This implies that there is a possibility that the existing base of conventional cars is insufficient to meet the total demand that will emerge once AI self-driving cars arise.

The counter-argument is that the conventional car of today is not especially being shared. The shared aspects of an AI self-driving car, assuming it will be shared, would suggest that the AI self-driving car can meet more driving demand than does a conventional car. Also, the AI self-driving car can be used 7×24, whereas conventional cars are “limited” to needing a human driver, which is not as readily viable.

I defy you to provide an economic means by which any this would happen in any short time frame on the scale of allowing society to stop all human driving and rely instead on AI self-driving cars.

It really doesn’t square out.

This means that when you start saying that there won’t be anymore human driving, due to the advent of AI self-driving cars, you are really talking about something that might happen many decades from now, maybe.

Furthermore, we don’t really know what society might be like by the time that such a possibility even might be available. Flying cars? Personal jet packs? Mass transit unlike the kind that we know of today? There are so many changes bound to happen that it is not contextually sensible to claim that we would overnight stop people from driving.

It could be that by the time the advent of mass-scale use of AI self-driving cars arises, people won’t be doing conventional driving very much anyway. There might be an ongoing shift in society toward not driving a car. Thus, by the time that there is an initiative to close off human driving, few will care much about it anyway.

My point is that having an argument about needing to give-up your privilege of driving, due to the pervasive adoption of AI self-driving cars, sufficiently to overcome the loss of human driving and yet still meet driving demand, it is premature to argue as though this is real, and instead it is merely an abstract proposition, which might or might not come to fruition at some far-off future.

For my article about induced demand, see:

For the use of AI self-driving cars non-stop, see my article:

For the rise of ridesharing and AI self-driving cars, see:

For my claim that zero fatalities is zero chance, see my article:

Narrower Elimination of Human Driving

I’ve tried to make the case that a full-scale whole-hog elimination of human driving as a result of the emergence of AI self-driving cars is not in the cards as yet, and it is a distant future idea, which we can only speculate about.

Some worry about it now, some don’t. Some say let’s cross that bridge when there are actually viable signs that the bridge is actually up ahead. Others say that it is worthwhile to ponder what might be in the future, regardless of how far ahead it might be and no matter how theoretical the debate might be.

There are some pundits that once they are presented with such a view and the suggestion that the urgency or near-term does not seem to encompass the outlawing entirely of human driving, not in any practical sense, will recast how the elimination of human driving might happen.

In this recast perspective, the scope of elimination might be narrowed, so let’s consider that alternative.

Suppose the emergence of AI self-driving cars suggests such autonomous vehicles can work safely and appropriately on our roadways, but maybe only best when geofenced and kept to areas that are comprehensively mapped and understood.  Rather than using them everywhere, perhaps they are limited to being used in certain areas. A downtown area might declare that henceforth there are only AI self-driving cars allowed to drive in their downtown area. No human driven cars allowed.

Does this mean that human drivers are going to lose their privilege to drive?

Not really. It means that you cannot drive a car while inside the downtown area. You can still drive a car on the freeways, highways, and streets that are outside of the downtown area.

I realize you might get upset about the restriction of not being able to drive while in the downtown area, but this seems to be not be much of a valid complaint. There are many areas that already restrict the driving of cars and instead have local shuttles, buses, rental bikes, scooters, and encourage walking rather than driving.

You won’t get much sympathy from me about your being prevented from driving your car in that downtown area. Live with it. You still have the driving privilege. You can still drive while outside of the downtown area.

Some though tell me that they are worried this is a kind of slippery slope. First confining step, they cannot drive in a downtown area. Next confining step, it will be that you cannot drive in a suburb area. Next down the rabbit hole, you cannot drive on certain freeways or highways. In a “death by a thousand cuts” manner, your privilege of driving is being eroded.

Some suggest it is all a conspiracy to ultimately rob you of the privilege of driving. As an aside, I’m not much of a fan of conspiracy theories. I doubt that this would be a grand scheme. I do concede though that something like this might happen in an incremental fashion, one slow step at a time, but not due to a sinister secretive underbelly of miscreants having devilish plans.

For my article about conspiracy theories in AI, see:

The time frame is once again decades away, at best. Could though it be the case that a long time from now the only place you can drive a car would be in a few leftover places? Sure, I suppose that is possible.

Some even envision a future whereby the only human driving that will occur involves driving on a closed track. There might be locales that setup closed tracks and let you drive a car, perhaps an old farm converted to a closed track or other expansive property transformed, doing so for the thrill of driving (and as a potential money maker). These would be amusement parks for driving. There are similar kinds of tracks today for those that want to do race car style driving. These future tracks would presumably be used by anyone wanting to simply be able to drive a car, even at a scant five or ten miles per hour, reinvigorating the excitement and joys of driving a car.

There is perhaps an irony about this notion, since today we have AI self-driving cars that make use of closed tracks for providing grounds. Could it really be that someday the AI self-driving cars would drive where we as humans drive today, and the humans of the future would be relegated to only being able to drive on closed tracks that AI self-driving cars once were saddled to use? It’s a bit of conjecture, one would say.

In any case, notice that human driving is still being allowed. It is not the complete elimination of human driving.

For those of you determined to keep the driving privilege, you might have a pained expression and be saying that a driving privilege that only applies to driving on specially provided closed tracks or on only the off-the-beaten path roads is not any more a bona fide driving privilege. The restrictions are so severe that it might as well be the wholescale elimination of driving for humans.  Well, I get your point, but once again we are debating an obscure possibility that is far away in the future.

For my article about human driving foibles, see:

For closed tracks, see my article:

For self-driving cars needing to adopt defensive driving techniques, see my article:

For my article about how AI self-driving cars can “drunkenly” drive, see:

Restricting Human Driving for the Sake of AI Self-Driving

One reason that some favor “eliminating” human driving is due to the notion that the AI self-driving car will presumably be able to drive more safely than human drivers. This suggests that AI self-driving cars won’t become drunk drivers, since the AI won’t be sitting on a barstool and then decide to take the car for a ride. Nor would the AI be presumably distracted by trying to text on a smartphone or be eating a sandwich while trying to drive a car.

Another reason for “eliminating” human driving is due to the potent dangers of mixing human driving with AI self-driving car driving.

You are a passenger in an AI self-driving car. You feel comforted by the aspect that the AI won’t get drunk, and it won’t get distracted, presumably. I think we all know that the problem about driving is that you can be an extremely safe driver, and yet another car can plow into you. It doesn’t really matter how safe you might be, providing lots of driving distance between you and other cars, in the sense that a drunk driver can still come upon your car and ram into you.

I’m not saying that being a safety conscious driver is not a good way to drive, it is a good way to drive. You are reducing the chances of the everyday kinds of car accidents that can happen. I’m merely pointing out that no matter how safe you are, there is the chance that an unsafe driver can still get you.

This implies that even with AI self-driving cars on our roadways, and assuming that they work safely, when you put them in the midst of human driven cars, there is now a chance that a human driven car will somehow contribute to an AI self-driving car getting into an untoward incident. It could be outright, such as a human driven car crashing into an AI self-driving car, or it might be a situation that a human driven car suddenly cuts off an AI self-driving car and the AI self-driving car goes barreling off the road.

As such, there are some that suggest we keep human driven cars away from AI self-driving cars. Or, if you prefer to see it the other way, we keep AI self-driving cars away from human driven cars.

My earlier example of a downtown area that bans human driving is illustrative of this aspect. Similarly, some suggest that we might declare that there are lanes on the freeway that are only for AI self-driving cars and not for human driven cars, akin to how we allocate HOV lanes today. You could do the same for highways, particular streets, and any place that cars might go.

There are some potential hurdles and difficulties with this separation approach.

How do you enforce the separation?

If the separation does not involve physical barriers of separation, it means that human driven cars can still mix with the AI self-driving cars. The human driver might do so illegally, and be subject to a ticket, but nonetheless they are still able to drive where the AI self-driving cars are. This means that you’ve reduced the chances of mixture incidents, but not eliminated it.

Another approach involves setting up barriers to prevent the human driven cars from getting into the stream of AI self-driving cars. This tends to require substantial changes to the roadway infrastructure. Those kinds of changes will cost money to put in place. How much will we be willing to pay to enforce the physical separation? Will the barriers be sufficient to fully keep out the human driven cars?

There’s another reason sometimes given to argue for a separation between the human driven cars and the AI self-driving cars, namely making life easier for the AI self-driving cars.

One of the hardest challenges for AI self-driving cars involves dealing with human driven cars.

In theory, if you had only AI self-driving cars, they would be able to coordinate with each other. They would use V2V (vehicle to vehicle) electronic communication and be able to collaborate while driving in traffic. They would not be likely to ram into each other.

By allowing human driven cars to mix with AI self-driving cars, the AI needs to be a lot cleverer than it would otherwise with only AI self-driving cars in the mix. Some believe that we are being delayed of getting to AI self-driving cars because of the arduous chore of getting them to deal with human driven cars.

Rather than waiting until we can figure out how to deal with human driven cars, some AI developers say that we should just get rid of the human driven cars. This seems like an easy solution. The problem is those pesky human drivers, so get rid of them.

How do you get rid of human drivers? You can separate them away from wherever AI self-driving cars are driving, or you can ban human drivers from driving.

This takes me back to the earlier point about the contentious point often lobbed out that we should no longer allow human driving. Those computer scientists and AI developers that already believe humans are fickle and imperfect, well, it just plain makes sense to take those flaky humans out of the equation. This would allow for AI self-driving cars to be much less burdened and make it a lot easier to program those AI systems.

Think about how nice it would be.

No human drivers implies no drunk human drivers and no distracted human drivers. It means that human drivers won’t get in the way of AI self-driving cars that are coordinating among themselves to smoothen traffic flow. You are taking what is otherwise an immense problem and chopping out a huge component that makes the problem really hard.

I try to bring some semblance of reality into such discussions by pointing out that the AI self-driving cars would still need to deal with pedestrians. Believe it or not, there are some AI developers that complain about pedestrians and suggest we should keep pedestrians away from AI self-driving cars. That seems like a tall order, and it is unclear how you would achieve this. In any case, I also bring up the topic of bicyclists, scooter riders, motorcyclists, etc.

Once again, the typical dreamworld answer is that those all be eliminated too. Not sure how that would be plausible.

The only chance you have of doing something like this would be to have roads that are exclusively for use by AI self-driving cars. Some have suggested that we might build freeways that are only for AI self-driving cars. Maybe we could build tunnels and have AI self-driving cars be isolated away from these other “distractions” that make driving difficult.

Those are all potential options. It does increase the overall cost of AI self-driving cars, due to having to build and maintain various specially set aside roads or tunnels for the use of the AI self-driving cars. As a society, we would want to include that infrastructure cost into the adoption cost of AI self-driving cars.

I also often point out that these efforts to make life easier for the AI can become a kind of crutch.

If the AI does not need to be good enough to handle these real-world driving matters, I say that we need to make better AI. Turning things on their head by saying that we should make the environment simpler and easier for the AI is something I’d suggest will impede the effort toward making the AI fully capable at the driving task.

You might want to argue that we could temporarily use as a stopgap measure the less-clever AI self-driving cars on roads by restricting the driving environment. What would be the cost for that short-term Band-Aid solution?  How long would we then go until we improved the AI to undo the needed restricted driving environments?

I’d need to see some kind of cost-benefit analysis that would showcase the value of proceeding with the restricted environment approach over waiting until we had the fuller AI self-driving cars available. Per my earlier suggestion about a crutch, would the time period of using the restricted environment tend to reduce the pressure towards making better AI, and if so would we be making a tradeoff that is worthwhile in doing so?

For the debate about driving controls, see my article:

For my article about how Gen Z will be pivotal in the AI self-driving car emergence, see:

For a potential Frankenstein kind of future regarding AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For a Turing test for AI self-driving cars, see my article:

Some Extra Parts Of The Debate

I’ll include a few more aspects about this debate that are perhaps extraneous, or one might say are less than the mainstream of such discussions.

One aspect is that we might all become so comfortable with AI self-driving cars and be relieved to not be driving and be overjoyed at being able to use the time while inside an AI self-driving car for other more useful purposes, we won’t want to do driving.

Human driving will be eliminated by choice, by the advent of something so much better that no one will want to do human driving.

It is like debating about keeping your shovel to be able to dig a hole, yet if everyone was given an automated digging machine, why would any reasonable person cling to their primitive shovel? Once you’ve gotten a proven alternative that is readily available, the picture of what you might choose is changed. During the time that there are only shovels, and not yet the automated digging machines, people would rightfully argue that you cannot take away their shovel. Doing so would leave them without a viable means to dig.

Some would say that not everyone will necessarily be of the same mind about this overjoy for AI self-driving cars and there will still be some “extremists” that will want to drive, in spite of the preponderance of society willingly and eagerly embracing AI self-driving cars. For that tiny percentage of malcontents, the thinking is they would be able to do the kind of closed track driving that I’ve earlier offered as a means to still be considered a human driver.

Another perspective is that humans will in a manner of speaking still be doing driving, even if there are AI self-driving cars, and simply be driving via their voices, rather than their hands, arms, and feet.

When you are inside an AI self-driving car, there will be Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities like an Alexa or Siri, allowing you to verbally indicate where you want to go. You can also presumably tell the AI self-driving car to stop at the curb up ahead. Aren’t you then driving the car? You might not be at the actual steering wheel or pedals, but you are nonetheless doing driving.

The counter-argument is that you are not truly driving the car when you are merely offering commands. Today, if you get into a cab or a ridesharing car and you tell the human driver where to go or when to come to a stop, you aren’t driving. You are only offering suggestions to a driver. Therefore, claiming that you are a human driver when in an AI self-driving car that is being driven by the AI is disingenuous, some would assert.

Another angle is that you might be able to do pretend driving via the use of Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR).

You get into an AI self-driving car and put on special AR glasses or a VR headset, or perhaps the front windshield is your portal for the AR or VR, and the AI starts to drive the self-driving car. You are able to be seated inside the AI self-driving car at a set of virtual or make-believe driving controls. The AI is doing the driving, you are not. But you have the sensation that you are driving, it makes you believe you are driving, and you feel exhilarated to be able to do so.

As you can imagine, not many of those that are in the human driving camp are very enamored of this AR or VR approach. They say it is like putting a baby in a car seat, inside a car, and the baby is given a plastic toy wheel, elated to be “driving” the car, when of course the baby is not doing anything of the kind. This concept of the AR or VR for adult humans as a means to pretend they are driving is said to be both insulting and outright demeaning.

For my article about how we’ll spend our time inside AI self-driving cars, see:

For the use of NLP for AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For my article about the socio-behavioral aspects, see:

For the nature of family trips in AI self-driving cars, see:

For the use AR or VR, see my article:


Mark Twain indicated that the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, doing so when an obituary about him was published in a major newspaper.

I would suggest that the elimination of human driving is akin to that same kind of exaggeration.

Besides my points about any such extinction being quite far off in the future, if it should arise, and also that society might no longer care as much about human driving, you can likely add to the matter that there would be protests aiming to prevent or delay the loss of the driving privilege, there might be lawsuits to prevent the elimination of human driving, and it could become a political hot potato that might get political leaders and regulators earnestly involved and trying to ascertain what the “will of the people” might be about the matter.

We also need to consider whether humans would still be driving but perhaps do so on private property, rather than public property. I know that for those that are ardent human driving proponents, being relegated to driving only on private property is an insult and being treated like a second-class citizen. Got it.

There are some that also worry about the deskilling of humans as it relates to driving. If driving gets restricted or eliminated, would humans “lose” the skill of driving. And if so, would this make us humans vulnerable to technology, meaning that only AI could do our driving. We could become slaves to technology since we cannot drive, even if we wanted to drive, because we no longer know how to drive.

I’d say that you are starting to head into the wilds of science fiction stories. In any case, it seems that we as humans are relatively easily able to drive a car. The barrier to entry of driving a car is quite low. Suggesting that we would become deskilled and not be able to take-up driving again, well, it isn’t brain surgery (even though it is a hard thing to get AI to do!).

For the idea of singularity and AI self-driving cars, see my article:

For my article about the super-intelligence and paperclips, see:

For my article about the role of greed in driving, see:

For my indication of egocentric AI developers, see my article:

Should you stay awake at night so that you can worry about the extinction of human driving?

I’d say no. Of the many potential nightmares to keep you awake, I don’t think that the elimination of human drivers should be on your list.

You can have comfort that during your lifetime, the odds are quite high that no one is going to take away your driving privilege. There might be some restrictions, such as not letting you drive where AI self-driving cars are driving, but this is likely going to be decades from now.

There is even a chance that you might gradually become less enthused about driving. You might find yourself driving less and less of the time, making use instead of AI self-driving cars. For your peace of mind, you’d still have that driver’s license in your pocket, and it probably will still be a rite of passage for teenagers. There are some traditions that will be harder to ease out of.

Copyright 2019 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.