Never mind the self-driving ones, where the hell is my flying car?
Why Self-Driving Cars Are NOT The Future
Technological hurdles aside, if we could develop the AI that makes self-driving cars as safe as human-driven cars, they’d still have quite a few other hurdles to overcome before going mainstream.
The biggest hurdle, perhaps, is the problem of liability.
Last week, a man in North Carolina was driving at night, following his GPS. The GPS led him to a bridge that the man couldn’t see was unfinished. He then drove off the bridge, crashed upside down in the river below and died. His GPS didn’t show that a portion of the bridge had been washed away – instead it went on mindlessly recommending it as the fastest route. After the man’s death, questions came up about who should be held responsible. Was it all the man’s fault? What about the fault of the city for not repairing the bridge? The state? The bridge manufacturer? What about the GPS technology that got it wrong? Should they pay out? It wasn’t clear where the fault lay and for that reason, all parties involved were vulnerable to lawsuits.
The list of liabilities continues to expand as well. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only demanded more and more accountability from car manufacturers regarding auto safety regulations over the years. According to NHTSA (an arm of the Department of Transportation), all vehicles MUST include specific types of seatbelts, they MUST disclose the locations of where all their parts are assembled (via the Labeling Act), they MUST follow all cybersecurity restrictions, and if a new safety recall should arise, the manufacturer MUST fix them at their own expense. Today, about one in four vehicles on the road have an unresolved safety recall on them which has increased every year since the recall program’s inception.While some may say this is a good thing to have that much oversight around safety, it also does a lot to discourage manufacturers from sticking their necks out for potentially unsafe innovations.
The EPA is also squeezing vehicle manufacturers with new regulations – tightening its emission standards and adding restrictions that car manufacturers find increasingly difficult to abide by. As David Shepardson from Reuters said,
New rules [that] take effect in the 2023 model year… require a 28.3% reduction in vehicle emissions through 2026. The rules will be challenging for automakers to meet, especially for Detroit’s Big Three automakers. General Motors (GM.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Chrysler-parent Stellantis NV (STLA.MI).
With all this red tape, automotive manufacturers are already feeling the weight of big brother pressing on their shoulders and would be reluctant to go all in on self-driving vehicles without all the safety concerns rigorously tested and approved to the point they can be sufficiently indemnified from lawsuits.
Perhaps in another country with a more authoritative government, the liability issues can be overcome.
Perhaps. But you can bet that, in a country with a LESS authoritative government whose citizenry was jealous enough of their liberty to see to it that their central government remained firmly within its Constitutional corral, we’d probably have workable autonomous and flying cars both by now. The lesson: bloated, meddlesome, too-powerful governments stifle creativity and innovation; capitalism and liberty encourages them, and rewards them richly. In Amerika v2.0, unless and until We The People have internalized that lesson fully and put its teachings into full effect, the day of the flying car can never dawn.