In the utopian view of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there will be no car accidents. There will be no injuries. Death by Motor Vehicle will be an unpleasant memory in the annals of the Unregulated Times. We will all be shuttled about in expertly engineered and regulated boxes, each with 8 airbags per passenger, fully restrained in the latest and greatest in “Passive Restraint Systems,” comforted by the knowledge that the vehicle its watching for any possible scenario that may cause harm. And secure in the belief that in the unlikely event anything should happen, our beneficent benefactors will know exactly where to send help, because our cars will tell them exactly where we are. No need to concern ourselves with anything bit the ride. The car knows what to do.
That is the opening paragraph to a piece I wrote almost two years ago about Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications. In short, cars and trucks will be able to “talk” to and avoid hitting each other. It’s the principal technology behind the idealistic wet dream of self driving cars, as championed by Elon Musk – CEO of Tesla Motors and Chris Urmson – Google’s director of self-driving cars. And it is with some dismay that I report that Moors Law is in full effect, as the Google-Mobile is currently being tested, and Mr. Musk has ambitious plans for release of the Tesla Model S, a vehicle fully capable of autonomous driving.
“So why all the fuss?” I hear you ask. “Why this Luddite hatred of technology? Don’t you see, humans are dangerous! We should have machines to eliminate any possible human error!”
Well there are several Levels to my concern. First I do not have a hatred of the tech. It is a tool, like any other, and it can be used for better or worse; it is entirely neutral. What I have a problem with is the assumption that all drivers are dangerous. Every one of them. Even those who are cautious or have a high degree of training do not escape this broad brush. We are presumed guilty until we prove ourselves innocent, much like
police revenue generation sobriety/seat belt check points. Witness this quote from Big Musky, “It’s too dangerous. You can’t have a person driving a two-tonne death machine.” Or This from The Oatmeal : “Human Beings are terrible drivers.” That’s right, every one of us. Because in their minds, there is no individual, only “The People.”
Another issue is the way the concept, and eventual reality, is being forced on us, much like the subsidized hybrid and electric cars. You see Tesla receive $4.9 Billion in “subsidies,” that is, taxpayer dollars. In other words, money taken from taxpayers under threat if incarceration or violence. (Please don’t tell me you pay your taxes voluntarily.) That’s not to mention the several other companies receiving funding to develop these cars, or the “tax incentives” used to sell them. So how will they be forced on us? Slowly. First, there will be “Self-driving only” lanes. Then, eventually, all lanes. In time, insurance companies will determine regular cars to be “too dangerous” and price policies out of reach, much as was done with muscle cars. The Large Sibling will determine all non-autonomous cars to be too dangerous and outlaw them entirely. Remember, driving on the road is a privilege. not a right. (Sarcasm intended)
I am thankful I was living in a time when the pure pleasure of driving was something to be enjoyed. I pity the younger generation. ahr