Well, Automate Ma’ Ride by Rod, A. Walters
During the holy-grail days of automobiles around 1900, well before self-driving cars, Willie K. Vanderbilt II vroomed around New England in his expensive, souped-up car. Back then, all autos were expensive and souped-up. This rich kid even got a speeding ticket for his three-hour zoom from Newport, RI, to Boston!
Then along came Henry Affordable Ford’s Models “A” through “Z.” This Great Popularization of the car expanded liberty for citizens, followed by traffic accidents and insurance policies. Face it, automobiles started as a huge unapproved social experiment, then got spectacularly built by U.S. entrepreneurs.
Here come the self-driving car automated vehicle, “AV” for short. Since vehicle-related deaths here now reach something like 35,000 per year, ten bucks say AVs would cut that by at least 90% after the AV Great Popularization.
Like all innovations, AVs won’t be perfect. Job loss tops that list. Then we should also rightfully worry about “hacking” into self-driving computers, connecting the internet between high-speed car clusters, and the NSA. Still, the explosion in new people able to get around makes this newer “social experiment” very well worth it. Even with likely traffic increasing five-fold, traffic flow will be far smoother than what we have now by getting rid of the so-called “human impulse gap” which causes most of the jams and delays. My ten-dollar bet about fewer traffic deaths also covers the even far larger number of non-death injuries not suffered. Clearly, emergency room admissions and auto insurance premiums will take a dive. Ten more bucks say the average public consent will quickly fall in love with AVs.
How to bring all this change about? Up from a century ago, we have evolved many more ways to meddle with innovations like AV development. Our public sector can “help out” with federal incentives, taxation, and useless job training. A few fatherly talking heads are already shaking their ugly fingers at AVs for possible “slothification.” That is people finding it easier to jump into an automated ride than walking short distances.
(If I want to automate ma’ ride, then that’s my own dadgum bid’ness. Period.)
Then there’s the Precautionary Principle, less popular in the U.S., which basically says that we should move slowly on changes like AVs to be sure something bad doesn’t happen later. Translation: do very little about anything. Mountains of well-meaning shepherds usually choke innovation badly. Think about the turtle-like progress on cancer treatment drugs, for example. More risk taking, though, more discoveries.
One cheeky writer suggests that today we just kind of drive along these days, and aim a little with the steering wheel. So, AVs shouldn’t seem much different, really.
No! Not really! The car is a stand-in for that rebellious kind of American independence. That cultural shift a century ago: freedom, speed, power, control, then meant much more liberty to go where, when, and if you just wanted to “go.” This shift continues with AVs because many, many more can “just go.” The self-driving car will continue proving that for far more people.
Maybe, though, we have room for the occasional choice to run the length of I-90 Montana in that used, non-AV red MGA, refitted with one of those 1960s Volvo engines. Wow!
Written by Rod, A. Walters