An obvious extension of driverless cars are riderless bicycles, self-guiding baby strollers, and hands-free shopping carts. I suppose the geniuses at Google X – if not all working at bars in Apple stores – are designing these moving contrivances right now.
As a cyclist, I prefer the concept of carless drivers, but driverless cars could possibly reduce the need for car ownership, at least for people in urban areas.
Bike-sharing bicycles, which many cities in the U.S. have installed or are about to install, could be summoned by a smart phone app and just roll, riderless, to a potential rider. This would eliminate the need to transport these bicycles among bike stations and also save riders time.
Self-guiding baby strollers could also be called up with a smart phone app. Install baby and take over the handle, or just set the stroller on automatic, using the same controls to direct it that are used on driverless cars. That way, parents could have their hands free for essential caffeinated drinks and other smart phone apps as well as calls. Sensors inside the strollers could be wired to play sleep-inducing music to lull babies whenever they start to twitch or cry. Best of all, parents wouldn’t have to buy a stroller and schlep one around when they visit a community that provides the self-guiding variety.
The most obvious application for the Homo sapiens-free moving object is the shopping cart. Imagine: you go to a grocery store, punch in the items you want on the screen attached to the front of your shopping cart, and then follow it as it rolls down the appropriate aisles. It stops in front of each item you’ve listed and doesn’t move until you’ve put something into the cart or touched the screen to indicate you want the cart to move on. This could save the shopper time and reduce the irritant of not being able to find something, like capers or garlic paste. If food manufacturers wanted to get evil, they could display ads on the screen, offer shoppers discounts, and get the cart to move to their locations.
The point of all this invention is this: machines are more efficient than humans in getting things to move. For quotidian needs, this makes sense. Some might even call it inevitable progress.