Excuse Me, Is This The Road To Hell?

Driverless cars are the way forward, and the reverse probably, and they’re going to be a bloody marvel making the world the boss place we all wish it was. Imagine it, you need to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ so you hit the app and await the arrival of the driverless, horseless carriage at your door. The trip is going to takes hours, you are travelling hundreds of miles, but instead of dread, you can’t wait to get your arse on the luxury king-sized seat and begin the journey.

At the moment we need to concentrate on getting to our destination safely, stressed out like a circumciser with a black-out problem as we consciously negotiate every hazard, delay and problem that a manual self-drive entails. With the driverless car, all that will be gone and making any journey will not have any more pressure than opening and closing a door…and maybe not even that, the car will probably sort the boarding and alighting barriers for you too.

With several extra free hours at your command you will be able to read that book you always wanted to (one of the classics of course, to add to your already rising smugness) or catch up on some work or even watch season 72 of ‘The Walking Dead’ which you know should have finished by now with a zombie victory but you’ve invested so much time already to stop now would be foolish on the off-chance it gets better. If you think about it the list of things you can do in a car if your time is free from the toils of driving is pretty endless; sex, knitting, sex and knitting at the same time if you like.

Then there’s the dispensing with the need to own a car. Why buy your own driverless car when a system akin to ‘Uber’ (without the alleged bullying and sexism) could be implemented, a fleet of cars available to everyone on an ‘as needed’ basis. No more initial financial layout, depreciation, maintenance, garaging, ball crushing insurance payments, cleaning it every Sunday like a twat; in short the total lack of responsibility that comes with ownership will be gone and again more free time…and money. This driverless car promise for the future really is going to be great…but it’s not really, really, is it?

Problem the first. I assume driverless cars are going to be driverless in name only, there will still be a ‘driver’ just not one of flesh and blood; it will be silicon and electricity and not infallible for that. Hands up anyone who has never had anything fuck up on them, computerised or not…no one? I can’t see any hands, nor did I expect to because I am always right. Computers, for that’s who will be driving the driverless cars at speed around the world, are notorious for being as reliable as recyclable rice-paper condoms. I can’t even guarantee my PC won’t throw a wobbler before I get to the end of this rant, can we be sure the driverless car will turn left at the end of the road instead of hitting the wall head-on at 90 mph because a bad line of coding or malware it downloaded while watching porn on its downtime?

Problem the second. These cars will need programming and programming is done by humans, (as far as I know but I’m well old and out of the loop so that might not be true anymore) based on human knowledge and the patterns and structures we understand. I assume the advice or profiles and skills of an expert, safe drivers would be used to dictate the software used in driverless cars but what if there’s a cock-up and the wrong information is uploaded. What if instead of a model courteous and careful driver being used the ‘skills’ of a taxi driver, or worse still, a Volvo driver, are uploaded as the standard? Would this new automated system be ready to handle illegal U-turns, sudden slamming-on manoeuvres and blind pulling out from side roads? Not to mention the incorrect and constant use of hazard lights triggering photo reactive seizures in 50% of the population. It bears thinking about, are you being driven by Normal Norman, the accountant who has never had a point on his licence or been involved in even the most minor of accidents, or is Leadfoot Lee, who always smokes weed while driving and thinks handbrake turns are cool because they make him piss his pants a little, your chauffeur for the duration?

Problem the third. The cars we have today are expensive, expensive to buy and expensive to run and yet we still have too many of them according to some. Imagine now how easily it will be to remove many of them by making access to these driverless cars prohibitively expensive too. Someone is going to have to pay for this new mode of transport and it won’t be Google or YouTube (Jesus, imagine them running a driverless car system) or whichever tech company that will be calling the shots, it will be you and the more we come to rely on driverless cars the more they will be needed and the higher the price will go. Simple supply and demand economics. In effect, most of you who are getting excited about this, the greatest leap in automotive transport since the internal combustion engine, will be priced out of the market. I can foresee bidding wars akin to the way we use E-bay today to buy a vintage handbag…or whatever crap you’re into. In effect you will lose your old fashioned car, your ticket to freedom and access to opportunities, you will be unable to afford the use of the driverless car and will once more become a pedestrian peasant just like your forebears. Never again will you be allowed long-distance mobility, a prisoner in your village from birth to death.

Problem the fourth. Public transport as we know it now will die on its inefficient, unpopular, anti-social, expensive arse because the driverless car will become the public transport system. Who the hell would want to travel even the shortest journey on a bus packed with other people, many of whom seem to have an allergy to soap, when you can call up your own personal limo of sorts? Hell, you’re not even allowed to indulge in some sex-knitting on public transport without getting tossed off (first pun of the rant, a record for me)…or so I’ve heard. I suppose if you would miss the old double-decker experience you could specify the driverless car you request have chewing gum stuck to the seats and an air-freshener shaped like a urinal that emits a strong smell of urine and cannabis. Other than that, you’re back to walking.

Problem the fifth. This one was brought to my attention via a mate of mine who is doing very well for himself and has my undiluted admiration; fancy job title, living in the sun, collection of sports cars, all the usual trappings of success…a git in other words. Anyway, I heard him say something proper profound, though to bring him down a peg or two he was quoting another source, and I am going to share it with you and then make it as sinister as fuck. Lots of donor organs are reaped from car crashes and if the advent of the driverless car makes the roads a safer place this bounty is going to reduce and thus more people will die for want of new organs donated to the pool. (Obviously, I don’t believe the roads will be safer due to ‘Problem the second’ outlined above but let’s run with this anyway.)

This is where the rich come in again and it’s not something they don’t do already and I know this as a fact despite my lack of proof as some misguided fools might want to point out. We, the herd animals, would be culled so that the better off get access to our internal squishy essentials. Don’t believe me? Imagine this: you’re all booked in to take a jolly to the seaside, you’ve got your radiation suit packed and everything; your ride arrives and you jump in with some wool and Viagra, you never know, there could be hitchhikers (there won’t, they’ll be illegal). Because all your personal information has been stolen and stored in a secret Cumulonimbus – blood type, lifestyle choices, etc – a yellowing rich bloke in need of a kidney pays some hacker to interfere with your driverless car’s programming and instigates an accident that has the least chance of damaging your vital parts but is none the less fatal, maybe a neck break. As this accident will have taken place in an isolated, off route, place – you’re not driving remember and possibly distracted being up to your nuts in some serious crocheting – the driverless car would take you anywhere it’s told to by the digital buccaneer. As you lie dead in a field, not missed by anyone yet, the rich bloke has all the time he wants to arrange for your body to be recovered, replace it with another corpse before torching the vehicle. He gets his kidney plus a load of other organs he can sell on to other rich buggers at a profit and ‘the rich get richer’ adage is yet again proved true. Now you know why the rich very rarely die young. Do some research, it’s true

But worry not your offal is safe because the driverless car will not be on our roads any time soon because I saw something on the telly (and I’m worried it was on Top Gear) regarding a massive moral dilemma that is holding the industry back. It’s all about the value of life and how it is determined which life is more valuable. Those of us that drive know there are circumstances that require you to make quick decisions regarding picking the least bad outcome, be they financial or physical damage in nature. Imagine a situation when you are driving and you round a corner to see the road is completely blocked with human life; on one side of the road is a group of children going to nursery school, in the other lane is a line of ground-breaking surgeons. You are travelling too fast (but below the speed limit, of course) for braking to be effective, your only choice is to swerve left or right. Hit the children or hit the physicians? On one hand hitting the surgeons could result in even more deaths because of their absence from the medical world; hitting the children could potentially rob humanity of people who grow up to make the world a paradise of love and harmony. What do you do…tough innit?

Imagine a computer, programmed by a human, having to make the same decision. Could it? Should it? Is another option that the car chooses to sabotage itself and risk the passenger’s mortality or them dropping a stitch and rapid, possibly painful, uncoupling? Which programmer is going to want the responsibility to write the code that makes the decision; which company will be happy to admit it has a eugenics policy that rates the value of people and in which order they would eradicate them? That is why the driverless car is much further away than many like to think. Of course, once the rich take total power, anyone not in the right socio-economic strata is fucked.

As a driver at this time and in the same situation I reckon I would take out the doctors, I owe the medical profession some pay-back for past crimes against my loved-ones be it due to incompetence or that special arrogant personality most doctors seemed to be blessed with and besides that the kids haven’t done anything to me…though I don’t know what their future misdemeanours will be.  Much to my embarrassment, not once did I think of self-sacrifice. It appears I would not be the best person to trust in a situation where your life depended on me…shameful but honest and at least you know where you stand or possibly fall. How about some interaction, tell us who you would run over, kids or doctors, and why in the comments below. Hypothetical questions about vehicular manslaughter, what a pleasant way to start a day…it’s what The Bickering Press is all about.