Look Out! It's RoboCar!

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The future of motoring looks bleak. Mankind has been declared too stupid to drive, and whether or not that is true, Old Betsy is on the way out. Get ready for RoboCar!

Cars operated by artificial intelligence are in the works and revving up to take over our highways! We must be protected from ourselves! According to Edward Tenner: "even without lethal fanaticism, the human-made world is more dangerous than ever." So why bother to make us "safe?" Pursuit of safety is like placing an artificial (robotically constructed) beaver damn over Niagara Falls. Assistive technology is just another thing to disconnect people from the ability to survive on their own.

No sir. I don’t like it one bit.

According to Dr. Sebastian Thrun, of Stanford University in California, in 25 years the technology will be here for completely robotic vehicles to safely whisk us away to our designations. Granted, a whole lotta drivers do not know how to drive. And Thrun’s invention would do wonders for getting the late night drunks off the road.

However… something about this sticks in my craw. There’s something… dare I say it?.. evil a brewing.

If our safety was actually of any concern, why is it we don’t have an advanced electric rail system like, for example, Japan? Nope, I feel the freedom of the open road being stripped away.

Which brings me to two of the dangers of RoboCar. Who will program the little beast? What if RoboCar, like HAL, gets a mind of his own?

Look closer. Robotic cars "Stanley" and "Junior" are the result of the labors of Dr. Thrun and a team of Stanford mad-scientists who recently won a $2 million prize from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the US Government for winning a contest to build the best robotically controlled car. Look at who funded the thing and be warned. What evil, pray tell, lurks in this contest?

Okay, let’s get this straight here. I like science and technology… unless it’s being used to kill people. But anyone who’s grown up in the modern technological world of television and movies can tell you that robots are evil! They always turn on their masters. We must be prepared! Jeepers didn’t Dr. Thrun and his cohorts see The Car? Okay well, that was back in 1977 so maybe not. But surely they’ve seen RoboCop and RoboCop 2! They must remember ED 209. Talk about your maniacal killer robot gone haywire!

In brief, The Car stars a murderous black vehicle with no driver which terrorizes a small town. Was it controlled by a robot, Satan or… Dead-Eye Dick? What’s the difference? If God had meant for us to be ruled by robots he would have made them a long time ago… like in the sixties along with the Moog Synthesizer.

And wait a minute… who is laying out all this moola for RoboCars? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of who? The United States government? Great, more taxpayer money wasted on things to torment us. And, what the hell do smiling RoboCars shuttling middle class families to work and school have to do with defense? Something’s fishy here. Can we be sure Scooter 209 will unlock the doors? Take us where we want to go? Let us listen to Howard Stern on the way to work… or force us to listen to Rush Limbaugh? Will it keep its mouth shut about our grumblings or fink on us to the constables? Will it run amok and mow down the town Christmas parade? Robots tend to do these things you know.

Will everything we say be recorded and then used against us in a Military Tribunal of "law?" I can see it now. Casually relaxing in the back of your Dick 209 you accidentally let slip an anti-Republican remark like: "I was reading The Bill of Rights the other day and…" WHAM! The doors lock, the windows won’t open, Dick 209 diverts from its pre-programmed course to Roscoe’s House of Chicken u2018n Waffles and speeds you off to your nearest re-Flanderization center. Okily dokily. Everybody smile.

It’s pure evil I tell you.

Of course, being machines there’s no way they will actually function that well. A flat tire ain’t nothing compared to a fried circuit or computer glitch in your shiny new RoboCar (soon to be available in Tranquility Puce or Victory Vermillion — formerly known as "blood red"). They’ll be slamming into light posts, fast food joints and school playgrounds right and left.

If that isn’t bad enough, I just do not like the idea of handing over control of my life, my car and my driving to Miles from Sleeper! Hey if I want to flip the Dive Master Special on its lid that’s my business! And crazy as it may sound, I like my cars to go where I point them!

Damned cars are getting too high fallutin’ anyway. Every time the manufacturers add something new to make them cushier, like electric windows, cruise control and airbags, inch by inch we get turned into a society of irresponsible… and stupid… wimps.

As cars become safer, drivers become more reckless. It kind of evens out. If drivers don’t have to drive, exactly what will they be doing in the backseat of their cars? The mind boggles… Actually, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. What if Bill 209 gets distracted and wants to watch?

It ain’t for me! Keep these diabolical RoboCars away. I want the responsibility… and freedom… to drive correctly, safely and to wrench on my cars myself. If I want to do a burn out on my front lawn, I don’t want Condi 209 grabbing the wheel!

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed to and edited this story.

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.

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