Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Will Driving Be Illegal Some Day?

Here's the opening paragraph of an article on TechCrunch that caught my eye this past month:

Driving a car will be illegal by 2030. Our economy will be severely impacted as millions of truck drivers, cabbies and delivery people are put out of work. In this era of endless innovation, man’s century-long relationship with the automobile is about to be permanently disrupted.

Author Jay Samit pulls no punches with this one. It opens with a short declarative sentence. This will happen, and it will happen much sooner than you think. Samit then affirms a few of the consequences of this advance, including the end of our trucking industry as we know it.

The notion is so immense I have had a hard time knowing how to put my mind around it. We're talking fifteen years. And I just don't see it.

Here are a few problems that I see. First, these new vehicles will have to cost a lot of money. The haves may have them but there are a lot of cars owned by the have nots who have made do with their limited resources by sheer ingenuity. In fifteen years will they no longer be permitted to drive their beaters? I do not see how that could happen.

Will these cars be propelled by bullet-proof technology? I mean, when you need tech support who do you call? Will they answer the phone or will you have to wait "for the next available technician"?

Will these vehicles all be run by means of the cloud? Is it a satellite system like my internet here in our rural home? It won't be by cable, that's for sure/ So what happens when a satellite goes down? Our internet was down for three days in a row last month when our provider's satellite went kaput.

Jay Samit talks about how many Chinese and Indians were killed in traffic accidents last year. He's obviously concerned about all the world's billions and the dangers of driving, but if poor people in this country are prevented from owning cars because of the price tags, imagine the poor in Third World nations?  And how many of those deaths in China and India are due to more laxity regarding driver training? Do other countries have a driver training requirement before getting a license? I know that in Mexico they did not when we lived there half a lifetime ago.

The author notes that cars driving themselves never drive drunk or distracted or while overtired.

In the United States, one out of four accidents is caused by texting and driving (which is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk). The more technology we put in human hands, the worse our driving habits become. And unlike robots, humans need rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 69 percent of adult drivers report driving while drowsy at least once a month.

This and other arguments seem to push the idea forward some, but I'm curious about the legal matter of who is responsible when your car hits a pedestrian when the brakes go out on a Duluth hillside? Is the car's owner going to be liable or will the automakers be on trial? To say this is never going to happen seems pretty far fetched.

I'm curious how one will hail a cab in this brave new world. "Taxi! Taxi!" Will the car see me waving my arm? Hear me shouting on a busy New York street?

The argument for going this route seems to be for the purpose of safety. But isn't it all a matter of trade-offs? All life has risks. Maybe one day it will be illegal to get out of bed in the morning. I mean, what if you trip and fall and hit your head?

So, Jay Sarif says by 2030 it may be illegal to drive. But he says more... that it will not only be illegal, but should be illegal. What do you think?

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