I took Uber to the airport this morning and marveled at the technology that enabled me to summon a car at 7:06 am, jump into a complete stranger’s car at 7:13 am and then watch my Uber driver navigate through rush hour traffic on a rainy Monday morning using the iPhone application Waze. All of this happened before arriving at the airport at 7:41 am! What did we do before all of this technology? Why am I so excited about automating an activity that I am perfectly capable of doing on my own?
I have always been a gadget girl and fascinated with how technology can automate and simplify the mundane tasks in my life in such a logical, reliable and predictable way. I confess I still get giddy when I scan and deposit a check with my iPhone. It is amazing that the deposit is made in just a few short hours. Automation makes such sense to my engineering self, although, my spouse often reminds me that life is not always logical.
I was fortunate to have an Uber driver who is a retired space scientist! We chatted about the advancements in GPS – global positioning systems – and how it has enabled companies like Uber to communicate, pick up passengers and find the best way to deliver them to their destination. We laughed about the possibility of someday having an Uber car that is self-driven. Looking in the rear view mirror at my driver, I realized that despite the laughter, we both had nervous looks on our faces as we agreed that the technology was almost ready. I also thought about how it would feel to be in a self-driven car. Would I feel more productive and independent? Would I feel more safe or out of control? I have mixed feelings. It will definitely require a lot of faith or at least a lot of nerve! That train of thought caused me to smile as I visualized a popular bumper sticker that will surely come with this technology: “GOD IS MY CO-PILOT.”
With the millions of lives lost worldwide in motor vehicle accidents, all the major automobile manufacturers and even Google and Apple are developing auto-pilot cars. Today they have the technology to add sensors and artificial intelligence that will transform the automobile into a fully autonomous ground vehicle. Sounds like science fiction? The truth is, we have been moving towards this day for decades. We have been relying on low level autonomous safety features like anti-lock breaks since the early 1970’s and very recently, the Active Park Assist feature error proofs difficult conditions related to parking a car.
Uber is in fact testing the self-driven car. By the time I landed in Atlanta, my Uber driver had emailed me an article from USA Today announcing that Uber’s partially self-driven car will start driving passengers this week in a test in Philadelphia. No need to worry, for now, the cars still have Uber drivers behind the wheel to intercede should the car make a mistake.
I may not be ready for the self-driven car (yet), but I am comfortable and thankful for the technology that enables me to automate and error-proof other tasks in my life. Several years ago, I put our bills and savings transactions on auto-pilot. I no longer write checks, mail bills and most importantly, miss a due date. I haven’t been to a bank in years! Interestingly, I never considered setting up our pledge payments as “bills” and preferred to drop a check in the offering plate. Unfortunately, we miss quite a few Sunday services due to our frequent business and pleasure travels and typically make lump payments in December to pay our balance. Earlier this year, we thought about how we were valuing our church commitment. By not regarding it as a bill with a due date, we treated it too casually. We decided to enroll in the church’s electronic giving program. Electronic giving helps us fulfill our pledge on a timely basis and better care for our most important commitment.
I hope you smile when you think of the bumper sticker, “GOD IS MY CO-PILOT” on a self-driven car and during this season of Stewardship, consider enrolling in the electronic giving program. Unlike the self-driving car, this auto-pilot technology is safe, reliable, controllable and free.