What is it about technology that makes people so optimistic?  Despite the claims of technological progress it seems that no one considers technological transitions and the impact of failures.  Instead the future is a rosy hue of nothing but perfection.

A recent comment regarding robotic cars set me thinking and I came across this interesting quote (from March 2008):

"According to the Associated Press, General Motors says they'll have driverless cars tested by 2015 and on roadways by 2018. "This is not science fiction," said Larry Burns, vice president for research and development at GM."

However, I would argue that it is this type of thinking which exemplifies how poorly thought out such a technological transition is.  In the first case, this really requires a complete societal reworking of automotive transportation, or there are going to have to be a lot of very trusting people that will accept a machine driving on the road with 18-wheelers, road-rage drivers, and drunk drivers.

"Robotic cars are bound to make mistakes-but there's no way they could possibly make more mistakes than human beings already do."

I also didn't find that last statement particularly comforting. This almost glibly suggests that even if people are still killed, it would be a better situation than it currently is.

Not to mention the issues associated with weather and low visibility, the mind boggles at the unbridled optimism of suggesting that within a decade driverless vehicles will be on the road.

A more sober perspective is offered by the Stanford Robotic Car team and their car "Junior":

"The technology is not yet bulletproof. "I wouldn’t want to get out on the course with a bunch of robots — at least not yet," said Montemerlo. Junior is programmed to handle traffic signs and other cars, not bikes, pedestrians, construction equipment, and other hazards of real-world traffic. "Being able to handle the chaos of really tough urban situations is a ways off, maybe 20 to 25 years," Montemerlo said."

Will the technology evolve and become more viable?  Without a doubt.  Will we be living in a society without drivers within a few decades?  Not likely, because if you were to compile a list of the technological achievements that are most important to people over the next 10-20 years, I would willingly bet, that the desire to give up driving wouldn't make any list.