My eight year old Niece was absolutely obsessed with the new Tesla showcased at the mall this weekend. When I told her that it is a self-driving vehicle, she looked at me like “you’re just messing with me, right?” The same look she gave me at her Grandfather’s funeral when I told her that Grandpa was in that little wooden box on the table next to his picture. Regardless, she said that she is putting this car on her “life goals” list (meaning her bucket list). It’s funny that an eight year old should already have a bucket list. I believe when I was her age, my greatest goal was marrying my Barbie to Ken. She and her six year old sister thought it was funny that the display car was plugged in and charging like a toy waiting to be played with. She asked why it even has a steering wheel if it drives itself, which is a fair question. The Tesla manufacturer claims that it has full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. All you need to do is get in the car and tell it where you want to go. It’s like a cab driver, only without the tip. If you don’t tell the car where to go, it will look at your calendar and take you to the assumed destination. It calculates the optimal route and navigates there. When you arrive at your destination, you simply get out and the car will enter “park seek mode” and automatically search a parking space and park itself. When you’re ready, a simple tap on your phone will summon the car back to pick you up. It’s kind of like the Lone Ranger’s horse, Trigger, only without the messy clean up. Cool, eh?

So, how does this work? Satellites, baby. Plus, there are eight surround cameras which provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. And, forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength that is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead. It’s all pretty amazing, if you really think about it. And, if an eight year old is impressed by a self-driving car, imagine how blown-away the older generation must be!

Until next week…
Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist

Self-Driving Vehicle – Comedy Defensive Driving