Driverless Cars ... and that bridge for sale!

There's is no doubt that driverless cars could have some limited advantages in certain circumstances. Disabled or elderly people certainly could benefit by increasing their mobility and independence. But as proposed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles these autonomous automobiles will soon be amongst us without a human being at the wheel. Instead, there will be someone manning a remote control monitoring system whereby this someone can remotely take over in case of an emergency. How reassuring!

 It all begs the question: What is the point of all this automation if you can’t trust it without stressing out over which glitch your software developers left unattended? Why bother with a potentially cumbersome intervention hovering about between you and the highway...now to be compounded by an additional streaming communication system that theoretically will have the attention and wherewithal to save your life. Yes, of course, soon we’ll all be happy travelers cruising through the usual traffic jams, across that proverbial bridge they're trying to sell us...without a worry in the world.

The impudence of companies like Tesla, Uber Google, and Ford is something to behold. After all, they are now convinced that their technology is so invincible that items like steering wheels and pedals will soon be a thing of the past, and are no longer including them in their audacious prototypes. Imagine the Macarthur maze in Oakland, California, or the East Side Drive in Manhattan during rush hour, swarmed with thousands of driverless cars, all out there on their own, supposedly communicating with each other, while the driver (now passenger) sits calmly, catching up with the latest news.

Really? Just consider how reliable your computer is...or isn't. The software behind these cars may be more dependable than a Google search, or an update to your latest operating system. But if your computer doesn’t boot up, or your browser freezes, it’s just another dissipating pain in the neck. However, a bug  in your auto-pilot, or any of them running your driverless companions on the road?... use your imagination. As for security? Let's face it: Driverless cars will become a hacker's delight. The scenarios are many, and none of them good.

Autonomous car manufacturers seem intent on proving that they have the wisdom to enable us to be a lot safer as soon as we relinquish all control...to them. But here’s a little reality check: The notion that Silicon Valley can divorce the man from the machine is simply fallacious. Driverless cars are programmed by human beings, and human beings are intrinsically fallible. The evidence for this is overwhelming. The suggestion of driverless cars as a viable science, in the midst of thousands of other driverless cars, in real-road conditions, is a technology beyond arrogance.

A great deal of money, time, and energy is being consumed in order to establish a future for this fantasy, as if it will assuage the visceral ecological, and social issues that are ripping lives to shreds, today, and in years to come. Instead, we continue to bow to the altar of the automobile, whereas after a few trips on a typical crush-hour commute, a child could discern that what we need are fewer cars. (In fact, fewer people would not be a bad idea either).

Meanwhile, the clowns driving (so to speak) the autonomous vehicle movement would do well redirecting their efforts to the compelling problems that face this world's proliferating population...such as housing, pollution-free environments, and the staggering number of people who are dying of starvation and economic injustice every day. Instead, they choose, (and we allow them) to continue making a mockery of us all with their myopic pipe-dreams of a robotic world.

~Marc Twang

 

See Marc Twang’s Essays Archive by clicking here.

 

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