You want a self-driving car do you? Think again

What does it mean when people talk about self-driving cars? We really ought to be talking about programmed cars.

And about who does the programming.

The “self-driving” car doesn’t decide for itself how fast it goes or what route it takes – at least, it won’t until it becomes an autonomous thinking machine, an artificial intelligence. We are not quite there yet.

So, in the meanwhile, who decides?

And it is a who – a flesh-and-blood someone (or someones). Guess what? It’s not you. This whole “self driving” car thing is about taking you out of the driver’s seat. And putting someone else in control of “your” car.

That part stays the same. Nominal ownership. You will make the payments, pay the taxes and fees. You will still be responsible for all of that.

But who will control the car? And how will they control it?

The “who” will be the same people who already control the roads: The people who are the government. Clovers. Authoritarian Control Freaks. The same people who make the laws about how fast you’re allowed to drive, when (and whether) you’re allowed to pass, make a right on red or a U turn . . . every last little thing.

They will control your “self-driving” car.

And when they do, not only will you not be allowed to proceed at a speed faster than they decree – or make a U turn or a right on red . . . or do anything they do not want you to do- it will be impossible to do so.

The car – controlled by them – will not do your bidding.

It will do theirs.

Can you imagine? I can – and it makes my teeth ache.

People have this idea that the “self driving” future will be fast and free. A techno-Libertopia of high-speed and high-efficiency. Cars zipping along at triple digit speeds in tight formation, travel times cut down to a fraction of what they are now.

In fact it will be the opposite.

It will be Least Common Denominator . . . universalized and encoded in the electro-mechanical DNA of “your” car. No longer will you bee free to mash the gas and thread the needle through a Clover Cluster, chuckling to yourself as you watch them recede in the rearview. There will be no “speeding,” no right on red.

You – that is, your car – will drive at exactly the pace of the Clover Cluster.

A slow pace.

No more burnouts; no more drifting. Nothing “aggressive.”

Acceleration will be metered in accordance with the Fear Factor of the Clover Cluster. Think of your mother-in-law.

Of your grandmother. In her ’87 Buick Le Sabre, hunched over the over the wheel, perpetually riding the brakes.

It will have to be one size fits all. Because the programming must be. No more wiggle room; no more driving the way you prefer. No more driving faster – or harder – than they allow.

The way I see it, you will need a special license to drive a non-programmed car.  Or to at least take the car for a spin like they used to do in the old days.

There will be a fun intermediate period where you can decide to do some work in the back while you’re being driven home.  Or you have a snooze while your car takes you from Nelson to Christchurch.

But eventually, all cars will be self-drive, and only those with special needs, special training and a special license will be able to self-pilot a vehicle.

I hope that happens after I’m gone.  The freedom of driving is one of the more delightful things available to us in our age.

 

Eric Peters Autos

 


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