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Don’t get too consternated over the new tech

Technology these days is amazing. Even more amazing is how many people don’t really get what it can and can’t do.

In some cases, we don’t use tech when it could really improve things. Yet in other cases, some are so convinced of the reliability of technology that they’re willing to trust it more than people.

Think about this fact: Most of you have, in your pocket, a smartphone – which is, in reality, a computer, one more capable than what sent Apollo 11 to the moon.

Pretty cool. Yet at the same time, very fallible.

How many times has your smartphone needed to restart, or shut down? How many of you have had one fail so completely that it’s “bricked” – meaning, it’s as dead as a brick, no longer capable of any function.

How many times have you had a desktop get a virus, get hacked, or just stop working?

I have to restart my computer on a somewhat regular basis or it doesn’t function well, and even then I have programs that fail while I’m using it.

When you’re writing a word document, that’s no big deal. But if that program is guiding your vehicle down a highway through heavy traffic, that is a very big deal indeed.

Our public officials and many pundits seem convinced that we are at most 10 years away from every vehicle being self-driving, or enough of them that driving as a career will no longer be an option – any kind of driving, from cab, to bus, to delivery van to big truck.

And honestly, I simply don’t buy it.

The so-called “self-driving” vehicles we have today are anything but that.

One allegedly “autonomous” truck cannot drive in rain, snow, other bad weather, on two-lane highways, through construction zones, or at night.

And due to several high-profile accidents, the company that produced one car with a self-driving feature had to remind its customers that it’s a driver-assistance feature; they can’t go to sleep, watch a video or read a book. They have to be at the wheel and ready to take over.

The fact that one hit a truck because the rig was white and it was sunny out is a pretty clear demonstration of their limitations.

I’m not saying it will never happen. It will. But tech gurus tend to get ahead of themselves. They almost always predict that technology will be on the market long before it actually gets there, and they cause a lot of worry and chaos with their predictions.

Roughly 15 years ago, I worked at a news website that covered telecommunications. It was exciting; new things were coming out, technology was advancing, a new tomorrow seemed imminent.

Yet consider this: The overwhelming majority of the tech firms I covered no longer exist. Be it through bankruptcy or acquisition by a larger firm, they are gone.

A significant chunk of the new technologies I covered have yet to arrive on the broader market. Some didn’t work out and never will; others turned out to be too expensive. Yet others didn’t work as planned.

And some have sat on the shelf all this time, ready to go, capable of being produced, yet sitting there.

The best course is a combination of a wait-and-see attitude, plus vigilance toward public officials and private companies who have a vested interest in seeing this stuff take over, whether it’s ready for prime time or not.

For all of us, safety on the road needs to be No. 1. The feds and tech makers tend to just accept that more tech is safer, and we all know that’s simply not true.

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