It Won’t Be Like The Jetsons

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.

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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.

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