Dear Auto Manufacturers
The self driving car is on its way. When we say ‘self driving’, we naturally assume that some quite essential central circuitry in this wheeled craft will be ingeniously programmed and then assume full control of all the car’s operations and by default, your life. To soften the blow of this subjugation they will probably make the car address you in a sweet and gentle “Millennium Man” sort of tone. This smart, sincere, definitely caring and seemingly autonomous driver does not get drunk, get lost in thought and stares absent mindedly into the nether, apply lipstick at high speeds, tail gait, break the speed limit and most importantly, doesn't lose its nerves because it wasn’t programmed to ever do so.
The reason for the emergence of the self driving car was not due to the fact that people complained that they didn't want to drive any longer. People love driving their crappy cars. They love driving their expensive cars even more. In all directions, at various speeds with extremely varying degrees of competency, in both the cheapies and expensiv…ies.
Some bright eyed bushy tailed scientist realized that computers can be programmed to perform the very simple task of transporting X and Y with their disastrous driving records from point A to B with, what appears on paper to be a fraction of the amount of casualties, freeing X and especially Y to get drunk, get lost in thought, apply lipstick or lose their nerves for no reason except that it is a way to indulge in these timeless mundane human practices without putting lives at risk. More importantly, your ever present, yet invisible pilot (We’ll call him Tik, not Kit, or Dog not God) will never stop the car, take out the jack hammer from the back seat and positively pulverize the bonnet of the driver’s car who cut him at the previous intersection.
Whether the guardians of the petrolhead generation will surrender what most consider their birthright, which ordains them with the right to get their hands dirty in every which way including treating the machines they have supreme dominance over like a dollar whore, is another unopened can of “bus only lanes” all together.
I predict that in about ten years time when driverless cars have become the predominant form of personal transportation, a sizeable rebellion would have arisen, asserting a type of free for all law over the ‘empty rider cans’ with not much concern for passenger X and especially not Y. Having these lonesome bandits of manually controlled rough riders of yesteryear share roads with their new calm and law abiding A.I. brethren will be akin to making a group, nay band, of around five Muslim men the plant managers at a Budweiser factory.
It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine a Mustang driver forcing a self-driving Tesla pod, with its non suspecting occupants lounging back in the pod’s cabin from the road and forcefully removing any car parts sticking out because it was stuck behind a row of these obediently programmed vehicles for 20 miles, driving at 20 mph. The A.I. only allows it to travel at speeds considered safe in current circumstances, at the discretion of the owners preferences off course, and it happened to have been dusk on a road hugging a steep scenic cliff which the occupants found just smashing.
On the historical modern transport timeline we’re minutes from surrendering the steering wheel and obediently heading off the all consuming self driving precipice.
Before this little mini transit revolution hits the rails we have to consider where all this rage sprang from. The only way we’ve been able to communicate with fellow drivers have been through a single tone hooter and a devastatingly limited arsenal of facial expression and the three hand gestures. They are the, “look where you’re going two finger point to the eyes”, the “are you crazy open prayer hand flipped back” and the all too effective “one finger salute” that could be delivered as “you’re driving badly” but almost always interpreted as “your mother fucks donkeys”.
In this technological wonderland we live in, why have we not not been supplied with some sort of broadcasting communication system that can be used on the road between road users? The most obvious one is a hell of a strong loudspeaker mounted on the vehicle. You can simply pic up microphone or press the ‘on air’ button and ever so calmly deliver instructions like, “You in the red car applying mascara in this stop-start traffic, yes you lady. I think we both know that just because your feet can reach the peddles doesn’t mean you should be driving”. One could probably just see it as a hooter that has graduated from kindergarten and got a scholarship to MIT. We are in for a bit of a noise fairway so lets shelve this one and let our men in blue retain custody of this godly effect.
Then there’s the little bit more technologically advanced intelligent or ‘smart' front and back window shields. Breaking suddenly when you are being tailgated has never ever in the entire existence of mankind stopped someone from tail gaiting. It had in fact always and never ever not, had the exact opposite effect. Would it not just be ideal if you could just dictate a couple of simple words that would appear in a bright shiny font on the back or front window shield, “If you want to sit on my ass I have to inform you that it’s flat, bony and not insured, just like my car”. The rest of the time you can just put up a short one liner joke or wish everyone a happy Hanukkha.
The obvious best, decent, human and technologically in-line method would be to have a simple app that activates when you drive. Actually, by law, like in airplanes and helicopters, this app should be mandatory for all road users. You can simply and quickly either talk or message that special incompetent fool braking at any and everything in a jiff. The app will give you a clear indication of all the vehicles around you. You tap on the avatar of the rickety carriage you’re trying to avoid giving the finger and hooter combination and simply tell them in direct human speech what you think would be a better way of traveling.
Dear Science. We don’t have much more time before a system like this will be absolutely redundant, but until that time, don’t you think that it’s time that we as the last of the manual operators have a way to communicate with other road users that goes beyond a hoot and a fruity expression?