D R I V E R L E S S  E A R T H


Once autonomous cars become established then it's only a matter of time before rich people figure out a way to makes their car faster than yours.

But how can that be when all cars are constricted by speed limits?

Well imagine this, once all vehicles are autonomous the Emergency Services will need to have some sort of priority to cut through the clutter on their way to an emergency.

Initially Police, Fire Trucks and Ambulances will have a chip that prioritizes them at intersections and forces other vehicles to yield. Everyone will agree that this is a sane and sensible policy. And all will be good, until the first hacker to crack the 'Priority Chip' starts to make millions by selling it on the black market.

So the democratic nature of autonomous cars will quite quickly become degraded. And then what? The option will be to fight it or accept it into the mainstream. And car manufacturers will be lobbying heavily to make that chip available to their most 'exclusive' customers, so of course the 'Priority Chip' will be made available as a luxury upgrade to your AV.

Call it the 'Platinum Version' or the 'Gold Standard' or the 'Executive Model' but whatever you want to call it, the luxury car manufacturers will be falling over themselves to get their hands on a chip that gives them a reason to charge more money for their product.

So you end up cruising down the freeway in your Toyota Driverless Corolla when you notice a sudden decrease in speed. Why you wonder? Well the answer is because a Mercedes F015 just merged in front of you and played the 'priority' card against you. And guess what, it's going to happen again at the next intersection because a BMW 7 Series wants to enter your lane and sends a signal to your Corolla that you need to slow down to let it in.

Because there's nobody more important than a rich person, and so they will always find a way to stay ahead of the proletariat, even when the technology seems to be creating a level playing field. It won't. It can't. Because you can make the cars equal and honest and democratic, but you can't make people stick to those rules.

People as always will be the problem with driverless cars just like they are with cars now. Statistics show that people with expensive cars are more likely to cut you off, disobey speed limits and park in handicap spaces illegally. So when you are at an intersection in your Kia Family SIze Autonomous Sedona and get suddenly stopped as a Mercedes F015 blasts through the intersection, just know it's not your car's fault - it's the system's fault.

Because every good system is only as good as the people implementing it. And we are not all that good, despite our best intentions. We are basically greedy and corrupt. Hence the autonomous system will reflect that. Despite all the laws that will be written, lobbyists will find a way around every one of them.

Science Fiction is not written by Capitalists, it's usually written by idealistic dreamers. And the driverless car is the child of idealistic dreamers, so don't be too saddened if it goes the way of all utopian dreams like 'The Paperless Office', or 'The Electric Car' or 'The Sustainable Building'.

You'll get your driverless car, but by the time it arrives, it will be packaged and massaged and tweaked until it can deliver the maximum profit to the car makers. Which will mean only one thing; compromise.

So while we can look forward with innocent anticipation to a utopian travel experience, let's just remember, that in the end, it's the people with the money and power that dictate our future. And in the case of Driverless Cars it will be business as usual. 

Issue 015 April 29th, 2016

The Weekly Autonomous Vehicle Magazine


by Paul Wynne