Last week, I had a computer failure in my normal car that caused it to suddenly accelerate while having the brakes fail. I have had more than my share of bad and frightening car experiences, but this topped them all. It’s made me nervous to drive at all, something that I used to love and thrive on. The scariest part wasn’t that the car went from 25 mph to 55 mph in a matter of seconds, or that the brakes failed. The scariest thing was that there was no rhyme or reason to the glitch. The brake failure had happened before leading to multiple trips to the garage where they replaced everything but were still unable to find a reason for it to have happened in the first place. The sudden acceleration was new. Plenty of other people have driven my car, but no one else experienced any of the problems.
My well-meaning daughter, who is a science fiction fan, said it sounded like a sci-fi story where the computer bonds to a certain person and is bent on destroying them. Yep, that pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling about this “demon car.” The mechanic has been driving it everywhere trying to find some kind of pattern, driving at high speed, driving for hours, sudden stops, etc. He finally found a computer sensor failure. The computer told the car to speed up and the brakes to fail simultaneously. I’m glad he found the problem and has assured me that it will be fixed, but do I want to get back into that car? I’m not sure. He said it was a question of whether or not I trust him. I say it’s a question of how much science fiction I’ve read and believe. Can a car bond with a certain person? Can a computer really think for itself? Remember “HAL”?
I’ve been driving another car for now, trying to get over my fear of driving. It’s okay, but I really miss my real car. It has its eccentricities, but I know them. It’s an older car but has less mileage than this other one, and my mechanic has replaced almost everything at this point. So, I’m leaning towards trusting him and hoping that not all science fiction comes true, though much of it has. But that takes me back to self-driving cars. If this car was not self-driving and could have killed me due to a computer failure, can’t we count on the same possibility for these other cars? How can they assure us that there will be no glitches or unexplained breakdowns? I don’t think they can.
So, once I overcome my fear of driving my 2002 Toyota again, I will someday have to decide if I want to be on the road at all with self-driving cars. What if one of them doesn’t like my car? What if one of them decides to run me off the road? It’s way too creepy a thought for me after this last bizarre experience.