Back when I was a waddling comic book fan, I loved all those little spy cameras that Doctor Doom had floating around the planet. I figured that was the source of his obvious wealth – he sold them to other evil-doers such as, say, Haliburton. It titillated my sense of wonder, which always is a wonderful experience.
Technology has progressed exponentially in the ensuing half-century, and today we have so many spy cameras that last week’s unsuccessful bombings in Manhattan were so well-monitored the authorities were able to see the bomber, identify him with speed and efficiency that would have been impressed Felicity Smoak, and bust his ass within hours. Not only that, but other “security” cameras found the other bomb he placed four blocks uptown – below Neal Adams’ studio, no less – and they saw the thieves who stole the luggage the bomb was placed in, leaving the bomb in the dumpster where it was placed.
I love New York, but that’s not the purpose of my rant today.
Cars used to be a major part of our popular culture. Back when Doctor Doom was still in the spy cam biz, my friends and I could identify passing cars a block away from our school playground.
To a considerable extent the car culture remains part of our American fabric – even though there’s only about a half-dozen different looks and each are changed significantly only when some executive decides he has to keep his phony-baloney job. And now, Doctor Doom-like technology is deeply imbedded in our cars.
All sorts of outfits – Tesla, Apple, Google, and the more common car companies – have driverless cars well in development. Prototypes already are on the street, and Uber is experimenting with driverless car pickup service. An aside: If Uber (et al) is making the taxi driver redundant, Uber is even more rapidly making the Uber driver redundant.
Personally, I enjoy driving… probably too much. I’ve driven between New York and Chicago so many times I’ve named each tree along I-80 in Pennsylvania. I’d drive to Hawaii if I could hit critical speed before I hit the Pacific. So I doubt I’m the type of person “they” have in mind for the driverless car, although I’m not getting any younger and neither are my eyeballs.
The problem is, nor is anybody else. When it comes to new tech, I am not a naysayer and I am not saying nay now. I’d just like to point one out one small fact.
If you’ve ever driven at or below the speed limit on any of our interstate highways, you have been subjected to more middle fingers than Mr. Carter had little liver pills (yeah; even I am too young for that line). We love to get where we’re going as fast as possible. The police count on it, particularly in troubled times when tax receipts are lower than the needs of the municipal budget… or, in other words, all the time.
It stands to reason that, like some rental cars, driverless cars will be regulated to meet but never exceed the speed limit. That will mean two things: we will get to the pizza place five minutes later, and our municipal budgets will go to hell.
I don’t think your average American will stand for this. Moreover, it will be extremely dangerous as long as speed-regulated driverless cars have to share the road with human drivers who possess the tendency towards lead-footedness.
On the other hand, much of our population lives or works in areas that really have run out of room for highway expansion. Regulating everybody’s speed will allow for more cars and might even result in an improvement in driving times during “rush” hour.
I think of driverless cars as the home version of NASCAR… with the possibility of the same results.