Alphabet reveals the ugly deficiencies of self-driving cars

Alphabet wants you to believe its Waymo driver is the way of the future. Take a look at what this really means.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Waymo Via. Way mo' problems?

Screenshot by ZDNet

When the artists formerly known as Google want to sell you on something, they come over all hippy, dippy, happy, and clappy.

After all, you're essentially a child that needs to be told how to think and live.

So to celebrate its Waymo self-driving arm grabbing $2.25 billion of external funding -- what? self-driving isn't self-financing? -- the princes of Alphabet released a little ad to make you feel warm all over.

Here, in this cartoon world, Waymo claims its self-driving technology is "the world's most experienced driver." Yes, in 10 years it's never been tossed in jail or tipsy at the wheel. If there's a crash, it's never its fault and, if it gets a ticket, dad surely pays it.

Which is very useful because, in this ad, the very first right turn the Waymo driver takes, it doesn't seem to signal.

Perhaps that's our beautiful future, one where every machine instinctively understands every other. Who'll need to signal when all machines are as one?

The promise here, though, is of a wonderful future for humanity.

While being ferried around in a self-driving car you can do homework with your kids or, ugh, work. And then there's the sheer joy of wearing a bright green hoodie, grabbing your drumsticks and banging away on the back of the driver's seat.

You're never able to do that now, are you? Well, not without really annoying your Uber driver, right?

This, however, is just the beginning. Soon, the self-driving, human-free Waymo vehicle will deliver your packages. How it'll throw them accurately onto your doorstep or front porch, I have no idea. Perhaps they'll have a catapult that sticks out of the roof.

Or perhaps you'll have to run out of your house, bow to the vehicle, smile at the car's facial recognition system and then get the package out of the vehicle yourself.

Somehow, I'm generally happy with a package arriving one or two days after I bought it, brought to the door by a lonely man who photographs the package lying on my doorstep. Do I really need the luxury of that package being brought by a lonely machine?

Please, it's just me. I have misgivings about a future where every car must be a part of a tight system -- the Googlie system, of course -- as we passively sit at the mercy of a machine and become ever more ready to receive constant advertising in our cars.

These Waymo people insist they're "reimagining transportation for all of us."

If I don't really see the benefit, please can I be left out? Apparently not.

I'm beginning to think Silicon Valley's supposed left-wing penchant enjoys vast tinges of its opposite.

Python skills boom, in-demand jobs, self-driving cars, and more: Tech research round-up

Editorial standards