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How will driverless cars impact families?

Moms spend a lot of time shuttling kids around from one activity to the next. Indeed, a 2002 report based on data from the Federal Highway Administration determined, “Married mothers with school-aged children spend 66 minutes a day driving — that is almost 17 solid days in the car (per year). This is more time than the average American spends in conversation or participating in sports.”

But with the rapid growth of driverless-vehicle technology, within a decade mothers may have the luxury of reallocating some or all of that daily driving time, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

“Giving automobiles auto-piloting features — up to and including completely hands-free, eyes-closed operation with trusting souls aboard — is the Space Race of global auto makers,” Dan Neil reported Friday for the Wall Street Journal. “… A fully autonomous vehicle, something you'd put your mom in, is ‘maybe more than a decade’ away, said (Mercedes Benz engineer) Dr. Ralf Herrtwich, with a touch of regret.

“That's one way to look at it. The other is, Holy Cow! Robot cars in a decade? Where do I sign up?”

On Sunday, syndicated columnist Neal Peirce tried his hand at imagining a future filled with driverless automobiles: “Why bother to live in the city, goes (one) theory, if you can live miles out, cruise to work texting, reading or sleeping, count on computer systems to minimize your actual travel time and then step out of your car at your destination and tell the vehicle to go off and find a parking space for itself?

“But that may not be the ideal life for the vast numbers of people who actually value city — or suburban center — life. We’re into a new century with new tastes. A significant share of today’s youth and families is showing less interest in driving, or in retreats to suburban getaways with multicar garages. Their pick, instead: the dynamism and attractions of urban living.”