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Self-Driving Cars are cars that are driven by computers. Assuming you set your destination before Shabbat (or can otherwise direct it without performing any Melacha), can one ride in such a car on Shabbat?

h/t Jalopnik

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halachically, wouldn't this be very similar to a shabbat elevator? – Bachrach44 Jul 10 '14 at 9:50
I asked several Rabbanim, among them, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein about riding a subway on Shabbat, assuming that you had a pass (so the fare was prepaid and it is a flat fare for an unlimited number of rides) and there was an eruv (to carry the pass). He said there was no problem with riding the subway, and in NYC, a man operates the motion of the train. In DC and several other places, a computer runs the train. I would infer, there would be no problem riding that train. Other than issues discussed in the linked Q, how would riding the computerized car differ from riding in a computerized train? – DanF Jul 10 '14 at 14:28
@DanF what about the light-up display when you swipe your pass? – Yitzchak Jul 10 '14 at 15:18
I didn't think of that because before the metrocard I was too young to ride the subway by myself! Though asking the nochri to open the gate raises a different question – Yitzchak Jul 10 '14 at 15:28

I could see parralels between this and the shabbat elevator, going on a boat ride from before shabbos untill after shabbos, and riding a bicycle on shabbas.


According to the Tzomet Institute, the following criteria are required to make an elevator "kosher" for shabbat usage.

What is needed for an elevator to operate as a "Shabbat elevator?"

  1. A timer to schedule automatic operation
  2. Disconnecting the manual buttons (except for the emergency button)
  3. Automatically stopping at every floor or two, leaving enough time for safe entry and exit
  4. Neutralizing any electrical effects connected to entry or exit from the elevator while it stops at a floor
  5. Sounding a warning buzzer before the doors close
  6. Taking care of the weighing mechanisms – either by disconnecting them or by neutralizing the effect of a person's entry into the elevator
  7. Proper operation of re-leveling
  8. Turning off unnecessary signal lights and taking care of floor indicator lights
  9. Appropriate signs in the elevator and at all floors

Some of the concerns that are addressed here that may be relevant to our current question.

  1. Maaris Ayin (this is addressed in having signs)- seemingly the Shabbos car would also need to be clearly labeled for all to see.
  2. Not causing more energy to be used- with the elevator this is addresed by having weighing mechanisms disconnected. Seemingly by a boat it has to be a significant change in energy usage added due to the weight. I know that a friend who raced cars was very careful to remove anything that weighed down the car to increase speed. Perhaps there is a way to create an indirect response to weight such as is the case with opening the fridge on Shabbos which is allowed but clearly effects energy usage.

By boats and bikes there are additional issues with tchum shabbos and a gezera on transport means that are usually used to transport out of the tchum.

Just a few points but clearly only scratching the surface.

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