I Love My Dumb Car!
Why does my car need to be connected to the Internet? Convenience? Convenience for whom? Insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, vehicle manufacturers, and advertisers, each spying on my movements for their own purposes? What happened to being left alone? What happened to the Fourth Amendment?
Driverless cars are even worse. Hacking of them has been demonstrated already. Techno-geeks, socialists, and environmentalists never miss an opportunity to tell us that cars should be shared because none of us drive our cars 24/7. Nonsense! I don’t want to share my car, or somebody else’s. Sure, I don’t drive my car 24/7. So what? I’m not in my house 24/7; must I share it with some gang of strangers too? Can the car-sharing advocates explain how to ensure cars for everyone on holidays and other high demand days, or during evacuations of a suburb or a major city?
My car is mine. I like driving my car! I like driving on a wide-open freeway and singing along with the music pouring out of the loudspeakers. I like being able to go anywhere I please, anytime I want, without having to wait for a taxi, a lumbering bus, or a “car sharing” service. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to hand control over to a computer. Handing over control to a computer is touted as “safer” than millions of individuals driving at various levels of skill and attention. I’d like to see the “safety” advocates address what will happen when someone (a teenage punk in a dorm? Islamic State? China? Russia?) uploads a computer virus into the system of cars exchanging information (all in the name of safety, of course) and creates a tremendous traffic accident that can’t be untangled by the Almighty. Don’t tell me that this will never happen. One of my professors was fond of saying “If it’s made by man, it’s not perfect.” This applies to the makers of driverless vehicles, too. Make no mistake, computer hackers of all stripes are drooling over the prospect of millions of connected, driverless vehicles.
The push toward driverless cars and car sharing has a number of justifications: safety, or reducing traffic congestion, or reducing carbon emissions. Let’s call it what it really is: a frontal assault on citizen empowerment. The ability to go anywhere, anytime, in a personally owned vehicle, is hugely empowering. The safety advocates (whom Ray Bradbury called the “Spoil-Funs” in his short story “Usher II”) don’t trust people with this level of empowerment because people cause accidents, whether through incompetence or intoxication. The environmentalists hate this form of empowerment because of the carbon usage that comes from manufacturing and driving cars. Even electric vehicles are not immune from environmentalist angst; electricity has to be generated, and most methods of generating electricity result in some carbon emissions. The complaint about congestion is valid, as those of us who live in Los Angeles and other big cities know all too well, but the proposed solutions are not worth the loss of independence.
Driverless cars and car sharing, therefore, are another salvo in the ongoing battle against freedom and individual choice. Our country started out as a bastion of freedom. Now, through endless litigation and regulation, the United States has become a timid country, concerned much more about safety than about freedom. Add the fact that technology makes computer-controlled cars possible, and hey presto – the Silicon Valley crowd now sees a chance to make money from the bugaboos of safety, carbon emissions, and congestion. Many corporations are racing to develop driverless vehicles, and ride-sharing corporations like Uber and Lyft are drooling at the piles of money to be made if people are forced to depend on them instead of, God forbid, having their own vehicles which they drive all by themselves.
I’m aware that I could get into an accident that will kill me or leave me severely injured. Furthermore, I frequently experience the hassle of being caught in a traffic jam, or trying to find a place to park, or having close calls with reckless drivers. However, freedom isn’t free. The risk of being injured or killed, and the annoyance of congestion, are the prices I pay for the freedom of being able to go anywhere, anytime. And sometimes driving is what it should be: the pure joy of an open road and good music, whether by myself or with others.
So I say to the Silicon Valley geeks, the politicians, the environmentalists, the advertisers, and the insurance companies: Give us freedom, not dependence on car sharing or on driverless cars controlled and/or spied on by government or big businesses! Leave our present system of decentralized, independent transportation alone! I don’t want my driving freedom to be taken away in the name of convenience, or safety, or reducing carbon emissions, or any other excuse. I don’t want to be dependent on a computer-controlled “smart” car that is all too vulnerable to hacking. I want to be left alone, behind the wheel of my personally owned dumb car, in full control, making my own decisions, and going my own way. Leave me alone!
New NMA member Michael Jabbra lives in Los Angeles, CA.