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Unpopular opinion: I’d take a self-driving car over a Seattle driver

Volkswagon has produced Sedric, a self-driving car, in anticipation of a driverless future. It has no pedals or steering wheel. (AP)

Self-driving cars are not yet a part of the transportation mix in the Northwest, but for some, they can’t come soon enough. That is only worsened by driving in Seattle-area traffic.

“I don’t know what it is about Seattle drivers, but it really is terrible around here,” said KIRO Night’s Gee Scott. “This is what I don’t understand — It rains a lot around here, so why can’t we drive in the rain?”

In Chicago, for example, it snows a lot. And yet, Chicago drivers seem to be able to handle that predictable weather challenge.

“It’s flat, for one, and two, they use salt out there,” Gee said. “They actually use salt on the road.”

“And they made this strange investment in more than one plow,” Producer Drew Barth pointed out.

So they’re aware and prepared. It seems, however, that the day the Northwest gets its first big rain of the season, the roads become a mess. And that’s on top of the horrid traffic conditions and bad drivers already present. In fact, Western Washington drivers rank among the nation’s worst. It adds up to hopes and dreams of autonomous vehicles rescuing us all from ourselves. Not to mention, certain perks.

“I would take the self-driving car,” Drew said. “I personally don’t have a ton of issues with Seattle drivers, but I just feel that if you got in a self-driving car, it would be a little less passive-aggressive than a Seattle driver.”

Self-driving car or Seattle driver?

Self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality in Washington. Seven companies began testing the driverless technology on state roads in 2018, including May Mobility, Navya, Waymo, Dooblai, Simple Solutions, NVIDIA, and Torc Robotics. The potential of a self-driving industry has many excited from ridesharing services — Lyft, Uber — to trucking and shipping companies. One expert predicts that consumers will largely ditch private car ownership for self-driving services by 2030.

Promoted benefits are relief from traffic congestion, fewer accidents, and the services would be cheaper than owning a car.

Washington state officials have already begun discussions on how to modify roads for self-driving cars. One discussion among the Washington State Transportation Commission involved a possible plan that would reserve the freeways for driverless vehicles only by 2040. Governor Jay Inslee has already been courted by car companies such as Tesla, and given driverless rides around Olympia.

Most signs point to driverless services coming online in the near future, providing transportation to and from work, school, the store, and elsewhere. One survey, however, indicates that 94 percent of drivers won’t give up their personal car.

Cars as we know them will change. There will be no steering wheels, for one. But Gee is considering other things.

“I was talking with Stephanie Klein, over at MyNorthwest, the other day about all this,” Gee said. “And I’m excited about self-driving cars. You know once you have a self-driving car you can be on your phone, return emails. But I’m also looking forward to a self-driving car where I can be in the back doing sit-ups, push ups. So now we’ll get bigger cars!”

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