Update your bucket list for the new year and include self-driving cars.
Have you put together your bucket list?
If you don’t know what a bucket list is, you must be living inside a deep cave that lacks internet access.
A bucket list is simply a list of the things you’d like to do before you pass from this earth.
Some people update their bucket list at the end of each year, gauging what new items might best be included.
Origins of the “bucket list” phrase seem to emanate from the old saying that when you die you will kick the bucket.
As the story goes, the writer of the 2007 movie entitled “The Bucket List” had created his own list of the activities and places he’d like to go to before he might die, and after mulling over the list, he conceived of the clever moniker bucket list and then used the catchy phrase for the title of the film.
An entire cottage industry seems to have sprung forth that offers to help you craft your bucket list, along with aiding in fulfilling your bucket list.
Though some of those providing such aid might be doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, the bottom line is that money is to be made from people’s bucket lists.
If you are a travel agent, for those still around, it is wondrous to have a shopping list of the places that someone wants to go, making it much easier to book those cruise ships and flights and get your piece of the action.
Tourist destinations love the bucket lists. Hotels love the bucket lists. Essentially, any element of the travel industry is all in favor of bucket lists.
Just in case that seems overly cynical, let’s go ahead and agree that indeed having a bucket list is good for people, giving them a structured way to ponder their future.
For some people, a bucket list is a type of wish list that gives them the energy and life-force needed to continue in their existing day-to-day grueling efforts. For each time that your boss yells at you, or that you get into a fender bender, you still have in the back of your mind that vaunted bucket list.
Someday, when the time comes, you’ll be in a much better mood and place, since you’ll gradually try to accomplish all the visits and activities you’ve laid out in the list.
Without having a bucket list, you might not have anything tangible to keep your daily spirits up. Furthermore, you might reach retirement and feel an overbearing sense of emptiness of what to do next, when instead your retirement presumably frees up your time to tackle the bucket list items that have gradually accumulated over the years.
It is interesting to see how much agony and quite debatable advice seems to now underlie bucket lists.
One example of conflicting advice is based on the sage wisdom (by some) that you should never remove an item from your bucket list once you’ve written it down. Their argument is that if you put a task onto the list, you should “own it” and have the nerve to fulfill the item. It is a sign of weakness and cowardliness to remove an item from the list, they say.
Others that offer contrary advice will tell you that over time your interests and tastes are bound to change. Items that you put onto your bucket list when you were in your 40’s might not seem as important anymore when you are in your 60’s. It is fine to change the bucket list as you grow older, becoming wiser about what are the important things to do in your life.
Another somewhat confusing bit of advice involves when you should partake in the bucket list tasks.
Get to the bucket list items right away, before you get weary and your bones are creaking, some will tell you. Others point out that by waiting to undertake the bucket list items, you can savor their eventual frolic and fun that will result. No sense in hurriedly doing items that are supposed to be done as you get older and can really appreciate them more fully.
There’s another kind of twist involved about the bucket list items.
Should the bucket list consist solely of the most extraordinary and outlandish places or tasks that you can conceive of?
Maybe your bucket list should have you going sky diving, along with climbing each of the topmost mountain peaks and going to see the pyramids and other praised wonders of the world.
Not everyone believes though that the bucket list must be the impossible dream kind of stuff.
You might have seemingly small and mundane items on the list, but for which you’ve never had the time or attention to accomplish them.
Learn to play the piano, volunteer to help out at a local school, become an amateur chef involving your favorite cuisine, these are all bucket list items that you could include, though they aren’t as spectacular as the sky diving and other breathtaking and high-risk tasks that some say you are supposed to want to do before you die.
Here’s an item I’d suggest you include on your bucket list: Make use of a true self-driving car.
Before I further elaborate, do you think that the bucket list item about self-driving cars should be in the same category as the high-risk high adventure set, or is it more rightfully placed into the camp of achieving everyday activities?
Let’s unpack the matter and see.
The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars
It is important to clarify what I mean when referring to true self-driving cars.
True self-driving cars are ones that the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.
These driverless cars are considered a Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-ons that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).
There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.
Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some point out).
Since the semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, such cars aren’t particularly significant to the bucket list matter. There is essentially no difference between using a Level 2 or Level 3 versus a conventional car when it comes to driving and therefore doesn’t merit a spot on the bucket list.
It is notable to point out that in spite of those idiots that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, do not be misled into believing that you can take away your attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.
You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the car, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3.
Worthiness For Bucket List Inclusion
Let’s focus on the inclusion of true self-driving cars onto your bucket list, meaning driverless cars that are in the Level 4 and Level 5 categories.
One aspect of any item on a bucket list is the feasibility of accomplishing the item.
If you put onto your bucket list that you want to visit the planet Jupiter, I don’t think you have much chance of getting there within your lifetime.
In terms of self-driving cars, you have a very good chance of riding in a Level 4 driverless car.
Score that as a win for your bucket list.
In fact, if you live in some areas such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh, etc., you can likely arrange for a Level 4 ride, though it takes some wrangling to do so.
There are people today riding in Level 4’s, somewhat so, and thus this is not an outwardly wild item for the list. People that are riding in them would even say it is rather mundane. Of course, there are lots of skydivers that exist today, and they would likewise say that putting sky diving onto your list is “mundane” in their eyes.
There are though some tricks involved in this.
Strictly speaking, one could argue that going in a Level 4 that has a back-up driver is not the spirit of being inside a true Level 4 car. Purists would say that only if you have a fully safe and comfortable ride in a Level 4 that has no back-up human driver would it count as a serious and sincere kind of Level 4 ride.
Some liken these fine details as equivalent to whether going sky diving counts if you are strapped to another parachutist. Is that true sky diving?
Self-driving car purists would eschew that analogy and say that today’s Level 4’s is more like going sky diving in a wind tunnel.
Anyway, we can go back-and-forth about the Level 4 aspects, including another notable facet that Level 4’s of today tend to exist in very constrained ODD’s (Operational Design Domains).
Yes, the proper definition of Level 4 allows for stipulating the scope of where a driverless car might be able to go on its own, but some say that the existing ODD’s are overly narrow and limited.
Overall, the odds are that we’ll gradually be witnessing a roll-out of the Level 4’s over the next several years, and your chances of riding in one will increasingly rise (assuming that no calamities occur that cause a slowing down or stoppage toward achieving true self-driving cars).
Level 4 is a relatively achievable inclusion onto your bucket list.
I suppose you might be asking why you should care about putting the Level 4 ride as worthy of the things you’ll do before you die.
You’ve got to admit that the notion of having an AI system, a kind of robot, being able to drive a car, doing so without a human driver, well, it’s a dream come true for anyone that has watched a science fiction movie or read sci-fi books.
And though the car still looks like a car, the amount of computer power and AI capabilities required to drive a car in the same manner as humans is an incredible feat of engineering and computer science.
Plus, though it might seem like outstretched hyperbole, achieving true self-driving cars is something that one could consider being added to the top wonders of mankind. That being said, once self-driving cars become a routine part of our existence, we’ll look at them as commonplace, like the advent of mobile phones, and perhaps forget how hard it was to achieve such an amazing accomplishment.
Next, consider whether your bucket list ought to mention Level 5.
That’s an entirely different animal, one might say.
Generally, a Level 5 self-driving car is supposed to be able to drive, without a human driver, in any circumstance for which a human driver could drive a car.
In contrast, a Level 4 being fielded by an automaker or tech firm might be defined as not being able to drive on its own whenever the weather has turned foul, such as if it is snowing. Humans can often drive while it is snowing, though it might be dicey, and at some point, the snow might become excessive and prevent further driving.
In any case, it could be that a Level 4 is not able to deal with the visual obstructions and radar-like clutter that snow provides and therefore the ODD might say that this specific Level 4 won’t drive in the snow. If snow begins to appear while Level 4 is already underway, it would likely pull over to the side of the road and wait for the snow to cease.
A human driver is bound to try and drive in snowy weather. Whatever a human driver might be able to pull off, in theory, a Level 5 should be able to do the same.
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t any Level 5 today and we don’t know how or when we will see a true Level 5.
It’s a pretty steep hill of cognitive-like savviness to be able to get an AI system to drive a car in the manner that a human driver would at any time and any place be able to drive a car.
Probably best to have millennials put the Level 5 onto their bucket list, but, hey, we are all living longer these days and there’s a chance that anyone reading this could one day take a ride in a Level 5.
We might get Level 5 sooner, maybe, and at least we can hope that’s the case.
Sometimes an item on a bucket list will have an added component that makes it especially difficult or challenging to perform the item.
A skydiver wouldn’t put plain vanilla sky diving on their bucket list since they presumably are already actively doing sky diving.
They might put onto their list to do a skydive from an extremely high altitude, perhaps aiming to do what Felix Baumgartner did in October 2012 when he leaped from a height of 128,000 feet above earth (the famous “stunt” sponsored by Red Bull).
For those of you that are toying with putting the act of riding in a self-driving car as an item onto your bucket list, you might consider juicing it up.
Here’s an idea for you.
Pledge to take a ride in a true self-driving car that will allow you to journey across the entire United States, undertaking the now-classic family vacation trip to see our great country, but doing so via a self-driving car that does all the driving for you (note that some have said that their self-driving car would do this, but have not yet fulfilled the promise, plus there are some that claim to have done this as part of a somewhat gimmicky marketing ploy, but not accomplished the feat in the manner that I’m suggesting herein).
Essentially, this would most likely have to be a Level 5, unless somehow there was a Level 4 that had enough overlapping ODD’s that it could make its way across the country, and assuming that no tricks were being used (such as a remote human operator, or doing this only when the weather lined-up perfectly, etc.).
Whatever you decide to put onto your own bucket list, I hope you enjoy the things that you opt to do before you expire.
Self-driving cars might be a ho-hum for you, and maybe you are holding out for the autonomous flying cars instead.