Q: Will we need drivers licenses when we buy self-driving cars?
W.T., of Belleville
A: Ultimately, no, but don’t throw away your “Rules of the Road” booklet just yet.
As envisioned by the Elon Musks of the world, your car of the future will have no steering wheel or pedals, so you’ll be little more than a passenger as your vehicle ferries you about town as a chauffeur would. A license would be unneeded because there would be little you could do except perhaps shut off the engine if, in a Stephen King scenario, somebody hacked your computer and your car headed into oncoming traffic or over a cliff.
But as long as cars have controls that allow — or even require — drivers to take over in an emergency situation, you’re still going to have to suffer those occasional obligatory tests at your friendly DMV station. And, depending on the expert you believe, that could take years or even decades until we find ourselves in the world like George Jetson’s.
Even California, which many consider among the first to adopt radical ideas, has been taking a measured course. In its first set of draft regulations drawn up in 2015, the state required all vehicles to have a human operator ready to take immediate control of the car if anything went wrong. Later, it revised the rule to state that licensed drivers would not be needed in the most advanced self-driving cars — if and when federal officials deem them safe enough.
Just how long that will take is unknown, but many think it may take years or even decades until experts judge them safe enough and the streets and roads are ready for widespread use. Until then, you’ll want to keep boning up on those traffic rules.
Where was that Yellow Rose of Texas first found growing?
Answer to Monday’s trivia: Upon witnessing the rollout of the B-17 with its multiple machine guns on July 28, 1935, Seattle Times writer Richard Williams reportedly remarked, “Why, it’s a flying fortress!” — thereby instantly giving the plane its well-known nickname.