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Is Google killing the Great American Road Trip?

By Nicholas DeRenzo
updated February 21, 2017

Google has taken cruise control to a whole new level. The company announced last week that it has invented a self-driving car. This isn't some distant-future, Jetsons-style invention that has only been dreamt up in the minds of mad scientists. We're talking about now. While such cars wouldn't be available to a wide market for years, fully-functional test models (Toyota Priuses outfitted with sensors) have already driven a whopping 140,000 miles. According to a New York Times article one of these cars even managed to maneuver itself down San Francisco's Lombard Street, widely considered to be America's "crookedest" road. So has it had any accidents? Only one, when a careless driver rear-ended the car at a red light!

Through the use of video cameras, radar, and a 360-degree rooftop sensor, these Google cars are expected to dramatically reduce accident rates and double the amount of vehicles that could fit on American roads.

Sure, the invention has its benefits, but I can't help but be a pessimist: Won't Google's self-driving cars ruin the American family road trip?

Stumbling upon off-the-beaten path destinations—from random roadside attractions to gas station barbecue joints to small town drive-in theaters—is what makes road trips so popular. Unless you remember to punch the world's largest jackalope or the Cadillac Ranch into your GPS system, you're all but guaranteed to miss these icons of Americana if you're in a self-driving car. In a sense, you'll lose the ability to get lost. I'm afraid road trips will become more about getting from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time and less about the wacky, kitschy, quirky stuff you encounter along the way. And I guarantee that few of our "Road Trip" story writers know about the hot spots they uncovered before getting behind the wheel and being willing to see where the road takes them.

What are your thoughts? Am I being too sensitive? Do you think the new Google car will ruin the family road trip?


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