Two driverless cars collide. Who gets the ticket? Driverless, autonomous cars. Who’s to blame when one of these monsters should rear end you — or end your life? The owner? The firmware engineer, the software designer? The manufacturer? No way. Corporations are legally like people — like persons, with rights, but responsibilities like people? Let’s not get personal.
And don’t blame Detroit. Currently there are 12 states with a No-Fault Law. Of course, the home of Motor City: Michigan, (where these AI rogues, that will spread across the planet — just like the current disease, of gas guzzling mobility emanates), is — yes, one of them.
There are others. Let’s name them: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, and one colonial possession: Puerto Rico. Why? I could see maybe in a state like Utah, as they would just figure it’s God’s Will. Run down by a car possessed. God’s will. Doubt the ticket goes to Him. Not without a lot of thunder and lightning.
As for the others, are they gearing up for the day when everyone will have to have a driverless car? Some are test markets or some, where research is done. Or, were they just tired of seeing all the ads for lawyers on TV and billboards, chasing ambulances, and promising generous settlements? You would think the stoner states, or the drunken states, would be among the first for this. “Oh, sorry dude, did I crash into you? I dropped a bud here somewhere in my VW microbus and spilled my beer, man.”
Look out! They’re on their way.
Can the driverless cars be trusted? How can we trust the drivers, now, in all the maddening traffic, darting about, all around us, tempting fate and defying physics — as it is?
We can’t. But, too bad! No one cares. There’s money to be made.
Yet, let us ask … Will these cars take all the fun out of driving?
Dodging in and out of traffic — at high speeds, cutting others off.
Tailgating, slamming on the brakes, burning rubber, revving the engine before your attack, giving the jerk behind you the slow ride, so as to teach them a lesson.
What about, the favorite, not using your turn signal to change lanes – because you’re so much more important than the others around you?
How will you convey this, if your car is just tooling along, obeying traffic laws? Automatically, autonomically. We can’t have that. Your automobile, your truck is an extension, a statement of your unique and wicked personality.
A special chip could be added to the vehicle’s system so that it would still allow you to still drive like an ass, even if it does so automatically. This would be a win-win. This would make you vastly far superior to others, as you need not even acknowledge their petty existence.
Who pays attention anyway?
What about good old fashioned inattentive driving? Where is the fun in texting while driving, if you can’t put your own life in jeopardy, and the lives of others? The drivel you share with others just seems more important, if you could possibly die or kill someone, by just taking your eyes off the road, for even just a split second. Boom. That would be gone. Your so-called “friends” that you “chat” with all the time, during your commute (but in the real world should you dare see them, you look the other way and avoid eye contact, lest they hear your voice) — would you even waste your time, when you could sit in a driverless car, doing something more constructive? Like having a few cocktails, smoking a number, even getting some shut-eye. What are all the DUI lawyers going to do?
What about traffic cops? Will cities go bankrupt because their hustle ticketing drivers will be gone with autonomous vehicles? Surely, they will adapt and overcome. They’ll probably concentrate on bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. Pedestrians are especially an easy catch since they can’t out-run a patrol car, a drone or helicopter. Driverless, rider-less bikes, rider-less motorcycles – will they be next?
What about skateboards and rollerblades?
Yes, a new world awaits us. Everything done for us, at the touch of a button, but more of them. The future, just like this, but even more so. You know it won’t be wasted on leisure. No way. Autonomy: it will allow us the luxury of working even more, just like air travel and rail. Except there are more cars, more people, more productivity, not just the flying, railing, commuter classes. Everybody. You will never have to look up to see where you’re going. Giving you the freedom to meet your demands and the demands of your superiors. Of course, more are coming as the pace increases. Accelerating into oblivion. Keep your head down. What about windows? Why bother? What’s to see anyway? Other people in their cars looking at you? Who cares?
Just like high rises … Shiny and big, that’s it. What’s the point having windows, to have a view of other high rises, having a view of you, and other high rises? Who cares? They reflect the sun twice a day, orangey. How nice. You can look down on traffic crawling along below, or above in the sky. Nice.
Either way, that special chip that allows you to still be obnoxious, will get you there in no time. Faster and more efficiently. Do you ever notice we don’t see too many ads with cars parking themselves anymore? That didn’t work so well, did it? To get around this, the cars will just be left scattered about, no need for parallel parking or parking spaces at all. The vehicles in motion will have to avoid them, of course, like land mines, but no need to worry – you won’t notice, not having windows. Getting out of your car and walking however will be a little tricky.
We’ve learned to avoid being run over by cars with drivers. Avoiding cars without drivers, will just be another challenge we must face.
Perhaps fashionable body armor will give rise to whole new industry as autonomous cars race across the globe, each other and us.
Keep your eyes open. Will the autonomous vehicles race along at 150 miles per hour or better, bumper to bumper? Maybe. Let’s hope so. But, what fun is that, really, if you’re not in control or don’t see where you’re going? Or, better yet, cannot see or not allowed. How will we know we went anywhere at all?
Top illustration by Jeff Worman
Jeff Worman lives in Walworth County, Wisconsin where there is water and a crisp, cool night sky conducive to the creative process. He has been drawing and writing since he was able to hold a pencil in his hand. Worman started out as a high school intern at the Bugle-American, an alternative newspaper in Milwaukee, and was a founder and long standing contributor to the Crazy Shepherd which emerged from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is published currently as the Shepherd Express. Worman’s column The Hourly Why was conceived in 1982, published broadly in underground newspapers over the decades and can be found online today at www.thehourlywhy.com. He has a great love of the outdoors and champions charities by riding those long distance centuries on his road bike to raise funds. Contact the author.