Tag Archives: Social

The Future of Self-Driving Cars

Stock photo of a young man clasping his hands near the steering wheel of a self-driving car.The Future of Self-Driving Cars

I own a sports car that requires all of my attention while driving. I love driving it but from time to time I think about what it will be like to drive (or ride in) a self-driving car. According to a recent article, at least two automakers are only five years away from production of self-driving cars. I think I would be bored, but I can see the advantages of being able to get caught up on work or sleep or enjoying a good book during commutes. It would be like having your own chauffeur. I was curious as to what the future holds, so I did some research.

Computers vs. Humans

In the article mentioned above, self-driving cars have been in 11 accidents in the last six years and Google claims its cars were not at fault in any of them. Perhaps the future of self-driving automobiles lies in providing transportation for people who do not drive well or choose not to drive. When it comes to driving, do you trust a computer or a 17-year-old?

The Future Is Now

The early components of self-driving cars are already available. Adaptive or autonomous cruise control is an option on several foreign and domestic vehicles. This technology typically uses radar to sense the distance between you and the car ahead of you. It will then actively brake or accelerate to maintain a safe distance between the two vehicles. Unfortunately, it is less effective in rain, fog, or snow.

Acura’s Lane Keeping Assist System uses a camera mounted between the rearview mirror and the windshield to track whether you are staying in your lane. If you veer outside the lines, then the car will warn you and also apply light torque to the steering to guide you back into the lane. In theory you can drive without hands on the wheel, but a dashboard warning will appear if you do it for very long. If you signal for a legitimate turn or lane change, then the system will assume that you are in control and not try to nudge you back to center.

Crash avoidance systems are also available now. Other technology exists, but needs to be integrated and perfected before going into mass production.


Google’s self-driving cars are set to hit the streets this summer in neighborhoods around the Mountain View, CA campus. Self-driving cars are on the near horizon, but there are social and legal issues to deal with. For example, should laws be different for self-driving vehicles? In the event of a traffic infraction who is responsible, the car or the driver/rider? How can a self-driven car help certain segments of the population? I will explore these questions in future blog posts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Dare to be Different

Kelly Brown wearing the bicycle helmet cover.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I recognize time as a human construct and I would like to believe that I can make decisions to improve or change my life in July or October as well as January. That being said, I did decide on a personal mantra this year and came to that realization on January 1. My mantra this year is “dare to be different”.

Taking the plunge

Two things that happened on January 1 led me to this mantra. On this day in my town, the local pool holds a “Polar Bear Swim” to raise money for charity. For a nominal fee, you can plunge down the outdoor slide into the unheated outdoor pool. The outside temperature this year was in the high thirties and I willingly paid my money to participate for the first time. The water pushing you down the slide is cold enough but plunging into the pool at the bottom is a complete shock. I tried it twice to make sure I got the full experience before retreating to the indoor kiddy pool to thaw out. As I emerged from the water, I thought to myself, “if I can do this, I can do anything this year.”

A new hat

As different as it was to ring in the New Year with a dip in a cold pool with a few new best friends, I decided to up the ante. I recently purchased a bicycle helmet cover from an eleven year-old friend of mine who invented and sells this product. Think of a giant, stretchy Koosh ball. I decided to wear it as a swim cap since I was already far outside my comfort zone. I was amazed at all of the positive comments that I received from young and old alike. Needless to say, I was the only one sporting this new fashion trend but people genuinely connected with it, I think because it was so different.

The challenge

I have come to realize that many times in life we do things a certain way because others do it and have done it that way for a long time. I have caught myself several times questioning why I follow certain routines and have started to question them and challenge myself to try something different. For example, why do we all enter an elevator and then turn to face the door? I know that there are structural reasons such as an easy exit, but what would happen if you faced the back instead of the front? Would it feel uncomfortable to actually face strangers? Sure, the first few times. Would it give you an opportunity to ask a stranger how their day is going? Absolutely. Would it give you an opportunity to make a new friend? It depends on how many floors you travel together. It can feel intimidating to not travel with the crowd but it can also be potentially very rewarding.


Dare to be different. This is especially important for young people that face constant peer pressure but it is also important for everyone who wants to be genuine and true to themselves. It’s all right to step out of the crowd every once in awhile. Have you tried anything out of the ordinary this week? Tell me about it.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.