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JANICE WELLS: Talk about driving hands-free!

Here’s a question: do you need a driver’s licence for a driverless car? —
Here’s a question: do you need a driver’s licence for a driverless car? — 123RF Stock Photo

I’m sure you’ve figured out that I am a bit resistant (and disdainful of) to change for change’s sake. Advancement or change that saves or improves lives is a blessing; if I’d gotten cancer 20 years ago I quite possibly wouldn’t have made it to the five-year mark and experienced the joy of my grandchildren.


On the other hand, I doubt you’ll find even 30-year-olds using all the bells and whistles that are programmed into today’s appliances. Manufacturers didn’t start making talking fridges because there was a need or a demand for them, but just because technology allowed them to, and of course charge more for them.

I was a bit dubious, if not horrified, about the possibility of driverless cars. But make no mistake about it; they’re coming. And you know what? I am having second thoughts as I begin to understand more about what self-driving technology could mean to the world at large, young families and even to not-so-young families like Newman and me.

I sort of just pictured people sitting back and letting the car drive and my first reaction was fear. Then I think about some of the drivers on the road today and realize I would much rather face a driverless car than a loaded weapon with an idiot behind the wheel.

But I didn’t really think about all the ramifications until I read this scenario in the Huffington Post.

“Julie is an ER doctor at the local hospital, on the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. She jumps in the family car at 6:30 a.m. and is at the hospital by 6:50 a.m.

“After dropping Julie off, the car then heads home, arriving in time to take Julie’s two children to their high school; one of them tosses their hockey equipment in the back of the car. The car then returns home to take Julie’s husband to the law office where he starts work at 9 a.m.

“The car then swings by the school to take Julie’s daughter to hockey practice at 2:30 p.m., and then returns to the hospital to pick Julie up. And so on.”

Newman and I have two cars sitting in the driveway. Most days he goes up to Son No. 3’s foundry and makes himself useful for a few hours. Many days, especially in the winter, I stay home or go somewhere with Daughter No. 2 and one or two grandchildren.

I hate shopping, but every few weeks Janine and I make the rounds of the thrift stores. Some days I have an appointment. Some days I make a trip to the grocery store (and don’t even have to make a separate trip to the liquor store anymore. How good is that?)

So you know darn well we could get along easily with one self-driving car. I’m not sure about the technology, but I’d say in no time at all the car would automatically know the routine: foundry, home, out somewhere with me, home, foundry, home. We might be more inclined to go out at night, but I doubt it.

I’m not much into cars. Ask me what kind of a car someone drives and I’ll say a blue one or a small one. Newman can identify a 50-year-old car at 40 paces. He’s sort of into cars but neither his nor mine owe us any money. I’ve always driven Hondas (except for once when I succumbed to a cool VW Cabriolet convertible). I was back to a Honda in less than two years. I’ve been driving my present Honda for 10 years and it was five years old when I bought it. I would definitely be more inclined to give a self-driving car a chance if it was a Honda.

I wonder if you need a driver’s licence for a self-driving car? That could be a game-changer, too. If it could pump gas I might be convinced, but then again by the time self-driving is common, cars might be all electric.

No, wait a minute, we don’t want anything else electric.

Wait another minute — it’s probably not something I need to worry about anyway.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at

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