The Great Self-Driving Car Conspiracy (Part 1 Of Possibly Many)

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If there is a set of Butterfly Language-specific theories and predictions, the Great Self-Driving Car Conspiracy is certainly one of them. It goes like this:

The fact that corporations and the government alike are embracing the automated, self-driving car is not under debate. Current estimates are that in about 5-10 years, these vehicles will be the norm—and most likely take the majority of jobs away from human drivers, to boot.

But outside the whole-taking-jobs-away-from-truckers-and-taxi-drivers thing, there are two other potential problems with this scenario.

First, how to convince the masses to give up their “old” cars—and, more importantly, to let go of the paradigm of being behind the steering wheel. Especially for Americans, the mythos of owning and driving one’s car is part of the Dream. Perhaps many people don’t want to trade in their cars for the automated ones, and/or cannot afford it.

Second, having regular and self-driving cars both on the road does not make a lot of sense to me, from a logistical and safety standpoint. Self-driving cars, steered by AI, work best in a world filled with other self-driving cars. Mixing automated cars with those driven by humans doesn’t make a lot of sense, because the humans are still unpredictable and might interfere with the algorithms and precision of the former.

And so we come to my Great Self-Driving Car Conspiracy—I predict that within a decade, the public will be pressured to give up/trade in their cars for automated models, the same way analog TV was phased out for digital (except much more traumatic/possibly-expensive).

Most people I talk to barely realize that self-driving cars have made so much headway in development, and so think this theory is a bit of rubbish. “Impossible,” they say. “Those self-driving cars will never take off. And even if they did, people would never give up their cars.”

But here we have a recent op-ed in Forbes entitled, “Self-Driving Cars: Do Humans Have An Obligation To Stop Driving?” And the crux of this article is, basically, self-driving cars are much more safe than regular ones, and perhaps people are “morally obligated” (!) to make the switch:

Car accidents are one of the top causes of accidental and premature deaths in the U.S. and around the world. More than 35,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. alone in 2015.

If we could reduce that number by a significant percentage, wouldn’t we then be morally obligated to adopt self-driving cars?

The post goes on to acknowledge the fact that yes, mixing self-driving and human-driven cars on the road is possibly even more dangerous:

when autonomous and human-driven vehicles mix, autonomous vehicles may be no safer than an average driver, and may actually increase crashes in the short term.

Therefore…

…I would argue that it is our obligation to hand over to smart machines as soon as the technology is safe and tested.

But would people be upset with that?

This sort of thing will have to be litigated and regulated because many people will not want to give up their “classic” cars. Many people also fought mandatory seatbelt laws, child-car-seat laws, airbag and backup camera requirements; yet with the benefit of hindsight, we know that these laws and regulations have saved countless lives.

Not quite the same thing as mandatory seatbelt laws or airbags—it’s basically giving control of your car to a robot—but…

So anyway, my point is: expect to see many more of these sorts of opinion pieces and articles in the future. This is the trend.

Now in case you think I’m some sort of crazed Luddite who is terrified that self-driving cars will drag me out of bed at night and eat my brains, let me clarify something. I can’t drive. Seriously, in terms of just me and my life, I’m totes OK with self-driving cars.

But the problem is, the public is just not being sufficiently informed or prepared for this probable future—not being prepared for something that will have a seismic impact on their world, their paradigms of life, and quite possibly their livelihoods as well. That’s the conspiracy. We are not being properly prepared for this or the impact of AI upon our lives in the not-too-distant future.