The automobile has a long and storied history in America. Indeed, it is now hard to separate one from the other. The Founders brilliant and eloquent ideas, values, documents and oration became the framework of a new and unparalleled nation, dedicated to individual freedom and natural rights protected by the rule of law. A dozen decades distant, the automobile unwittingly took up the same role as champion of individual autonomy and independence.
For the first time in history, people could easily and quickly traverse vast stretches of land. One could find fruitful labor far from home, explore new “worlds,” take the family to a resort or to visit distant relatives. American’s wanderlust and inquisitiveness was such that various road-side attractions sprang up all over the country. Many national parks came into being around this time, most located in the expansive western states. People from all over the country roamed far and wide to take it all in. The “road trip” became a cherished American tradition. America’s citizens fell in love with their new-found ability to not only be free, but to freely and quickly move around the country whenever and wherever they wanted to go.
They were literally in “the driver’s seat,” independent, confident and in control of their bodies and their lives.
Many in the interior of the country, in the Heartland, the hinterlands, the breadbasket, drive tractors around all day that they may feed the world, yet when the work is done they may take their Mustangs, El Dorados, Suburbans and Camaros and cruise off to parts unknown, unlike the frail, coastal elites who need to be chauffeured around by others…via a taxi, limo, bus or subway system. (And public transit is to individual transportation as school food is to Haute Cuisine).
And now comes the advent of the “driver-less vehicle.” These are being touted in the mainstream media as a positive breakthrough for the human race. Why?
Because, they say, people won’t need to own them. They can be “ordered” only when they are needed, indeed will be shared among us resulting in fewer vehicles needed and less congestion…a'la public transit! There will be no need for parking ramps, parking lots, garages or carports the experts claim. On any given thoroughfare, they breathlessly posit, only one lane will be needed in each direction, because of the “efficiencies” these driver-less vehicles will bring with them. This, in turn, will allow for more and/or wider lanes for pedestrians and bikers, and more buffer or green space for natural vegetation, flowers, etc.
I should have guessed where this was heading.
Moreover, they state, self-driving vehicles will therefore enable better carpooling, less idling in traffic and smarter route planning, thereby making it easier to live in dense cities, rendering urban living more attractive!
Additionally, experts lecture, computer-driven vehicles won’t waste gas and time getting lost, gawking at roadside attractions, or looking for parking spots, therefore total miles traveled and greenhouse gases will decline. Hooray!
But what does a driver-less vehicle do, say, when it has to “decide” whether to hit another vehicle or a human being in an unplanned, emergency situation?
When we don’t drive anymore, and we let machines do it for us, because we hope they are better at it, they make fewer mistakes, they don’t have emotion tied up in it, etc., etc., we are saying: we are too dumb, undisciplined, weak and error-prone to take responsibility for our own inventions, actions…and locomotion. One recent online article explained that, of the approximately 30,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year, as many as 90 percent of them are attributable to human error. Take the human out of the equation, it stated, and fatalities would plummet.
Yes, and if there were no humans, fatalities would be impossible.
The big-government “progressives” always want to take the individual human and his or her free will out of the equation, thereby, they believe, rendering the God that granted that free will moot… and turning the now intellectually and morally circumcised pseudo-person towards the all-mighty… state.
For far too long, we in the West, who should know better, have relinquished control of our lives to Big Government. Now we are willingly ceding what’s left of our autonomy to artificial intelligence and robotic machinery, duly relegating ourselves to the passenger seat of life.
No robot, autonomous vehicle, or artificially intelligent machine will ever be able to replace the heart, soul, courage, humor, wit, empathy and oratorical skill of, say, a Churchill or a Reagan, historic defenders of our freedom and autonomy. If we listen closely to history, we can hear them imploring us not to surrender… to the techno-tyrannical age. They believed in using technology to aid and abet and protect our freedom, not in letting it- or any government program or edict- restrict or abuse it.