I knew right away this Walsh column was gonna ring a bell with me.
In any case, the joke’s on us. The nominal reason for introducing technology that absolutely no red-blooded American male could possibly want is that cars with no drivers and no steering wheels are somehow going to be safer, and that by eliminating human error—stupidity, drunkenness, distracted driving, texting and a million other crazy things people do in their cars while in motion—we’ll all get where we’re going in one piece. But given the still-imperfect state of the technology, how could driverless cars be perfectly safe? We don’t even have consistent cell service yet.
But even if Johnny Cabs were perfectly safe the moral argument against them would be strong.
We know, for example, that roughly 30,000 Americans will die in traffic accidents every year—a number that has been steadily declining for decades, by the way, even as the population has increased—and yet that minuscule risk is one we all willingly assume every time we get behind the wheel, whether it’s to run to the store, take the kids to after-school activities, or to drive across country just for the hell of it. Are the tech giants and the auto manufacturers really arguing that this number will now magically and precipitously fall?
Further, the point of driving for many of us is not simply to get there alive, but to enjoy the trip; that’s why some folks prefer to saddle up a Mustang or lasso a Jaguar. Driving is supposed to be fun and, for most men of my acquaintance, it’s never any fun being a passenger, or piloting a Prius. The lure of the open road created the American muscle car, while the joy of a Sunday drive in the country paved the way for generations of touring sedans, as ordinary Americans decided to see the U.S.A in their Chevrolets.
There are more sinister reasons to be wary of driverless cars, however. In the post-9/11 age, the government has a limitless appetite for surveillance power—law enforcement is now able to track every American carrying a cell phone—a robocar is a “convenience” just waiting to be exploited and abused. Who, for example, programs the ride? Who controls it? Should the police decide that they have a few questions for you, what’s to prevent your Johnny Cab from detouring from grandma’s house to the local precinct station? And if it does, what are you going to do about it?
These are not idle questions. The assault on the Fourth Amendment is by now nearly complete. “Terrorism” is the all-purpose excuse for monitoring the innocent along with the potentially guilty, and just about everybody can fall under suspicion. The very act of boarding a plane now exposes to you formerly unreasonable search and seizure, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. So why would you climb into a robocar and take yourself hostage on purpose?
As always and forever the Left, their Leviathan State, and its helpful propaganda arm will provide as many justifications for our incremental enslavement as they can manufacture, the bitter pill of tyranny candy-coated with “safety” or “security” or “health” or “sustainability” or “fairness” to sweeten its taste and smooth its course as we choke it on down. But when you reach the end of the Yellow Brick Road and pull the curtain aside, the fact remains: it’s all about power and control.