When California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on September 27, 2012 allowing Google to test drive it’s driverless Google car, I thought the announcement would get more buzz. It seems to me a massive milestone for culture — as seminal as the first car. For me, the Google car always seemed like a far-out Jetsons fantasy, but the future is clearly upon us. Born out of a perfect storm of the rising power of mapping, thanks to Google and the advancements made in gaming, the driverless Google car should be fully active and on the roads within 5 years, although I believe it will happen faster.
Interestingly, the car has long been one of the most intimate spaces for family or friend conversations. I cannot count the transformational conversations between Dads and sons, husbands and wives, Mothers and daughters, boys and girls that have taken place in the front seat of a car.
What did Antoine de Saint Exupéry , author the The Little Prince say? “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.”
There is just something incredibly liberating about sitting in a car, talking, letting the words flow freely while looking out at the horizon together. It can be romantic, revealing, touching, comedic.
In her cautionary tale about Technology, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle, the Director of MIT’s Center for Technology and Self, says the number one inciting incident for turning kids off to their parents is an”unsatisfactory” car pick up or drop off of a child. What is the disatisfaction? The parent is on the phone, ignoring the child. And the child wants to bond, to connect with Mom or Dad. According to the research, Turkle says that the child turns off at that moment, and begins to mimic the parent. They want their own phone, their own isolating world away from actual conversation. And the rift begins. Technology has interrupted their intimacy.
Pundits say that with the adoption of the Google car will end drivers licenses. What will we be doing in those driverless spaces? Will we be talking to one another? Or will we be preoccupied with the technology that rests in our hands, and builds the walls towards our aloneness?