The first part of our Tetrad on the subject, Auto-Pilot, is the Enhances side. For this one I choose Tesla’s semi-autonomous driver assist vehicle with auto-pilot (Tesla Team, 2016). According to Tesla’s website, all of their vehicles, even those with firs-generation driver assist features like “automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding, and active cruise control (Tesla Team, 2016),” will find these features temporarily put on hold but the new upgrades to the system will be automatically updated as the advanced features come on line. Tesla uses cameras for a full 360o viewing range, sensors that also have the all-round range, and an onboard computer with “neural net vision, sonar, and radar processing software (Tesla Team, 2016).”
The second panel in the Tetrad examines what this technology is making obsolete. Since 1959, car manufacturers in the United States started using a simple system of cruise control. The first models, the one in the 1959 Oldsmobile 98, were simply an alarm that sounded if the speedometer went over a certain mileage set by the operator. As the technology advanced, the driver could set the rate of speed and the car would keep that same speed on the flat, hills, or curves. Self-parking cars, cars that would alert the driver if they were drifting out of their lane, and a console with GPS for navigation or a view of what was behind the vehicle as it was backing around. All very handy items and for some, have made driving easier.
For the third panel in the Tetrad, the things it harkens back to or Retrieves/Rekindles is having a chauffeured car or limousine, may be even a coachman driving a barouche. Sitting in the back seat of a car or limousine on the way to work, not having to worry about traffic or ‘getting there,’ allowed the passengers in the rear seats the added time to work, read, or if the car was so equipped, watch television or use the phone. Many luxury cars such as Bentley, Rolls Royce, or the American made Lincolns and Cadillacs, had ample leg room, and were very comfortable when properly fitted out with an experienced driver. Before cars, a coachman driving a carriage or barouche filled the same function.
The final panel of the Tetrad is the Reverses. For this I envision a truly driverless experience. Cars, trucks, buses, and etcetera would all be suitably equipped with the ability to go from point to point with no input from the passengers except for the initial travel plan. Currently trains are controlled by a central control room where workers would move the trains from point to point in an attempt to use whatever tracks were available. The same system could be adapted for self-driving vehicles. Imagine road networks divided up into areas that would have computers controlling all of the cars, trucks, and busses using the roads in the network. As each vehicle enters the network, they appear as a colored dot on the control room map. The central control room moves the ‘dot’ around on the roads using the latest conditions reports, traffic use inputs, and other information. If the ‘dot’ needs to travel outside of the control area, they are handed off to the control of the next network and so on until the ‘dot’ arrives at the destination. This ‘dot’ could travel across the county via a travel plan and be moved from network to network along the way. The network would stop the ‘dot’ when it needed to recharge, the occupants wanted to eat or sleep for the night.
In the late 1960s, my father taught me to fly. At the time, our plane was not yet fitted with the Loran system for flying from one airport to another in the most direct route, but we used a point-to-point system which meant we flew headings or compass headings and radio signals. It was a crude way of doing things, but it was better than having to use road maps and following roads to get from one place to the next. Loran, when it was installed, brought us up to the same technology that was used to move ships around the Pacific and Atlantic during World War II. Under that system, you simply entered the longitude and latitude of where you wanted to go and you followed the path the Loran laid for you to get there. It also had check points, but it was long range, the check points were far apart, and it cut the time considerably because of more direct routes. We’ve come a long way and have much further to go to get to the future, but then, I’m holding out for teleportation.
Tesla Team. (2016, October 19). All Tesla cars being produced now have full self-driving hardware. Retrieved from Tesla Motors: https://www.tesla.com/blog/all-tesla-cars-being-produced-now-have-full-self-driving-hardware
- S. Government. (2016). GPS.Gov. Retrieved from Loran-C Infrastructure & E-Loran: http://www.gps.gov/policy/legislation/loran-c/