Mercedes self driving concept car, without steering wheel

Self driving cars: from airplane approach to elevator approach

Elevators when first introduced was big scary thing and needed an elevator man to operate this room which would take humans to several stories up and down. There were machine errors and certainly human errors which caused accidents, so over the decades elevator companies did lot of things to automate the process of riding the elevator, including taking away elevator man, replacing levers with nice buttons on the panel. It may hard to visualize now, but people were scared to ride on this elevator without an operator! They introduced music, emergency buttons, better doors and so on. Machine which doesn’t need ‘operator’ or ‘driver’ anymore. There is an emergency button, but there is no fallback to manual operation on the fly.

On the other hand: Airplanes now are flying on its own, most of the time, with humans in the cockpit ready to take back control as and when needed. I guess it would be matter of time when we would not be needing humans to fly the same.

Self driving cars are somewhat going to take airplane approach first (i think) where it would be comforting for drivers to know that they can take charge anytime they want (see tesla) and then eventually we would see cars with no steering wheels or controls (just like elevator without operator) with a red panic button.

Above post is inspired by a recent show I heard on NPR.