I been thinking about some of the implications of smart cars. Because it wouldn’t actually play out like the comic says. In all probability the car would only respond to the voice command of the person it currently thinks of as the driver, otherwise it would randomly react to conversations in a car.
Think about it. The cars come linked to the owner with a voice or the fingerprint or something. So, lending a car – You don’t just hand the neighbor the keys to your truck so he can run to Lowes and pick up something too big for his Prius. You have a glitchy app, probably, that gives temporary access to the neighbor, which probably fucks up after he parks in Lowes and now he can’t get back…
Imagine if the Owner dies. You have to get the dealer to reset it or something.
The car will probably have some government access so that they can impound your car as necessary. Also the loan company will have that access.
In fact the loan company could just send a message to a self driving car to come in to their lot. A whole group of people whose job it is to repossess cars will become slowly obsolete.
Police chases will end as soon as a cop sends a message to the self driving car to pull over. Probably no siren needed in those cases. Its not like the world needs to be aware of what can be communicated through the car. And the cars themselves are going to go about pulling over in the safest possible manner with all the cars around them cooperating.
From a law abiding stand point all these things are good things. Less cost, less injury, more socially acceptable behavior.
So, why do I feel like we are losing something?
Choice, even the choice to do something illegal, seems so paramount to me. And so when I think about a world in which the speed limit is always obeyed and the stolen car will never be missed in traffic and will always pull over safely, and the interest rates on car loans go down because the repossession of default is cheap and easy… all I can feel is sad. It feels dystopian instead of utopian.
But it is in fact utopian. Right?
Well, not completely. How do you make sure the loan company gives up that access when you pay off the loan? How do know someone won’t hack the loan company and now some random asshole has potential control of your car. Because there is always an asshole.
There are lots of things like that. But like most things, the convenience and effectiveness will out weight the outlier negatives. And we will numbly hand over control of our cars to corporations and governments because it now is easier to stare at a smartphone on the commute to work.
And if you are thinking, as I did for a moment, well, I just won’t buy one. This is what I think is going to be the most insidious part of it. At some point the saturation of self driving cars will be say 75%. And the vast majority of people not using them will be people without enough money. And criminals. And we will then place a stigma on non-self driving cars.
And then people will begin to say it won’t be truly effective until EVERYONE is using a self driving car. So they will ban the old ones because only criminals use them (because who thinks people won’t oversimplify it to that?). Which will effectively take a huge amount of mobility and freedom from a whole lot of lower income people who can’t afford a self driving car or to take a self driving taxi everywhere. And the likelihood of public transit being pervasive enough to fix that, especially in rural areas, is unlikely.
The net effect 100 years after that will probably be positive and no one will do more than comment in history books on the social implications of the change. Those people won’t know what we lost, because they never had those choices, can’t see why I would think the ability to choose to do something I would never do is important. They will feel distantly that the plight of several million people who lost mobility was sad but they won’t understand because we will probably have solved that problem with a wider net of public transit. But during the change, which will happen in our lifetimes, it isn’t going to be so nice.