I think it was Andrew McCarthy who wrote an article this past week about the autonomous cars or as many people are calling them self-driving cars. They are autonomous because they can be regulated. But his point was that the federal government which is more influenced by the environmental wackos and those who want to control all aspects of our life than they are by the majority of people, will put rules and regulations into place that will essentially force us to buy autonomous vehicles.
Think about this; right now when you go to larger cities there are carpool lanes. These lanes are designed to encourage commuters to rideshare in some way shape or form by allowing vehicles with two or more people to use these lanes which can shorten their drive time. Or they can ride a motorcycle or in some places electric cars have their own lanes. These are designed to encourage a certain behavior by giving you a perceived advantage. As a practical matter, these measures have not necessarily worked that well, certainly not as well as adding more lanes or bypass highways.
But it would not take much for city, state or federal governments to identify certain lanes as being available only to autonomous cars. Again the idea would be to encourage you to purchase an autonomous vehicle and get a perceived benefit, usually shortened drive times. Really, who doesn’t enjoy passing all of those poor saps sitting in the regular lanes? It gives you a feeling of superiority, doesn’t it?
Then it could be a short step to adding on more lanes that are available only to autonomous vehicles. I think once those vehicles get to the point that they are affordable and the perception of the consumer is that they are safe and reliable, more people will have them, justifying governmental authorities deciding to dedicate more lanes or roads to autonomous vehicle-only use. I could see where it’s not just highways but other major, arterial roadways. Think about making Telshor Dr. or Valley Dr. in Las Cruces accessible only to autonomous vehicles. Because of the businesses along those roads, that might not be practical but think about some of the other roads that span significant portions of a town or city. It’s not a major leap to think that those roads could be closed to people-driven cars.
Right now there are laws in place that require auto manufacturers to continue building replacement parts for a specified period of time after the automobile has been built. It might be 10 years; I’m not 100% sure. But it prevents this whole planned obsolescence from requiring us to purchase a new car until we are ready. The federal government could repeal that law which could make your vehicle useless if it breaks down. Imagine trying to get an alternator or an oil pump for a vehicle that’s only 2 to 3 years old but that part is no longer manufactured. You would have to try and find a used part or hope that the government does not ban someone from starting a business that could manufacture aftermarket replacement parts.
But if the federal government were able to make people-driven cars obsolete in that manner, you would be forced into buying an autonomous vehicle. Just look what they have done with things like electric vehicles or solar panels for your home. The government subsidizes those to make them more affordable and/or more appealing to the consumer. They could give you tax breaks in addition to subsidizing the cost.
Then the government can control how you drive. It would be very easy to believe that a federal agency could place limits on the speed a vehicle can travel. They could limit how fast an autonomous vehicle can be driven within the city limits for example. Then allow that same autonomous vehicle to travel in a faster speed on a highway. You would not have a choice or an opportunity to drive at a faster pace should the need arise. I suppose they could put in an override similar to what you have on your phone in case of emergencies. You could hit a certain button and then choose to travel to a hospital, doctor's office, or police station. But if you wanted to try get to a private residence or even work if you are running late, you would not be able to override the limitations put in place by the government.
We could certainly take the examples of how the government could control your use of the vehicle to the extreme. They could in real time, reroute your vehicle if there was a reason they felt was legitimate. Maybe there was an accident or traffic is heavy in a certain part of town and they send you in a different direction. Maybe there’s an event going on or some politician just doesn’t want a lot of traffic in his or her neighborhood. The possibilities are endless.
And let’s not forget those of us living in rural areas or people who like to hike, hunt, mountain bike, or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors. An autonomous vehicle controlled by the federal government or even a local government could prevent you from driving to areas where you would like to engage in your particular avocation. Not to mention the many of the rural roads, especially through our national forests or into wilderness areas that are not mapped. And even those that are could easily be eliminated from the GPS system controlling the vehicle. And how many times have you had to deviate from the gravel road in a rural area because of damage to the road? Would an autonomous vehicle allow you to drive to the side of the master road? It’s a good question.
Maybe I’m putting on my tinfoil hat a little bit here, but certainly I think the forces are in place to make a good portion of this scenario come true. And if our current administration is not able to drain the swamp, it will come back with a vengeance that we cannot even imagine. And this would be one thing they would love to do to the American citizen.