Self Driving Cars. You Might Want to Give it Some Thought

Posted on June 03, 2019 in Uncategorized


OK, anyone that does what we do for a living has heard it, "What are you going to do when they introduce self driving cars?"

Well, up to this point I've generally made some ridiculous comment about retiring, but early last month – as I was taking a torturous rush hour ride from LaGuardia to New York Law School to give a talk on blood testing – the answer came to me; nothing; no changes; because self driving cars can never be allowed to happen.

Now I know I've blogged on this before, but before stating my present position, let me digress a bit to another futuristic dream. Many of you may not know this, but long before the introduction of transatlantic Boeing 747 service in the 1970′s, there was luxury service available between Chicago, New York City and the capitals of Europe. Complete with signature china dining, grand pianos, smoking lounges, baths and full sleeping berths, these luxurious behemoths cruised effortlessly to London, Paris and Rome in record time. There was just one problem. As horribly demonstrated in Lakehurst New Jersey on May 6th, 1937, they blew up.

Against this rather grim backdrop, let's talk about self driving cars and at least four insurmountable problems that hopefully reality, plain common sense and their ultimate rejection will prevent.

Returning to that dehumanizing cab ride from LaGuardia, imagine that journey in a self driving car. Programed to "drive by the manual," it will maintain the appropriate spacing from vehicle to vehicle and will observe all reasonable regulations as to merging and changing lanes. Further, it will definitely not proceed when it senses that it is unsafe to do so. So far so good, however pack a sleeping bag or make motel reservations because what would ordinarily be a onehour drive across a congested fifteen miles will take days simply as a result of adding the appropriate spacing and adherence to applicable safety requirements. I don't think I exaggerate reality when I say that an enormous amount of additional space will have to be added to the airport to create a "staging area" in which vehicles waiting hours, or perhaps days, to depart for the city may be safely held. Now if that isn't enough, add this. The conversion, particularly in urban areas, will certainly not be immediate. This means that our newly minted self driving cars will have to deal, and in every instance yield, to vehicles that most certainly will not adhere to our genius's pre-programed politeness.

Of course we do not all reside in urban areas, but here's where the situation truly turns catastrophic. Think for a moment about how the FBI broke the iPhone code in San Bernardino. They hired a hacker; a garden variety paid professional hacker. Now flip the page to the hacked DNC emails or the our intel's Wikileaks disclosures and you'll see where I'm going. Whether you've given it any consideration or not, our reliance upon technology is quickly rendering conventional armies and every form of arms obsolete. With a few malevolent key strokes, a hacker sitting comfortably in his or her study on the other side of the world can now bring our power grid, our banking system and our means of communication to a grinding halt. The sad fact is that the proliferation of self driving cars will make his or her task all the easier. John Kennedy once lamented that the advent of nuclear weapons gave mankind the power to destroy an adversary in eighteen hours. With the onset of self driving cars, Kennedy's time frame is infinitely reduced. All a hacker has to do is to glitch the GPS navigation system for a mere thirty seconds and we will see instantaneous death and destruction from coast to coast. Nor will this be all. The damage to our infrastructure as well as our financial institutions as they attempt to resolve this man-made Armageddon will make 1933 look like a tea party.

Malevolence aside, there will always be systematic failures. I find it strangely ironic how a society that steadfastly turns its back on nuclear power, due to the regional devastation that could be caused by a technical anomaly, has lovingly embraced self driving cars without any consideration of the large swath of injury and death that will occur under identical circumstances. As we plunge headlong into this unachievable high tech nightmare, let's also not loose sight of those who are actually driving this program. Some have said that as technology advances it will have the capacity to supercede government. Indeed, the 2016 election cycle demonstrated the possible dispositive role that technology can play. Without question Google is perfectly positioned to assume this "burden". But there are other factors as well. Don't kid yourself, if this tribulation actually plays out, conventional automobiles will ultimately be banned as "dangerous." The complete and sudden obsolescence of currently existing automobiles will be the savior of an industry that has been struggling for decades.

Does our particular means of employment give us a financial interest in the abandonment of this Orwellian vision? Most certainly it does, but at the same time we have a much stronger interest in not creating yet another means of our destruction so as to attempt to insure the survival of mankind, as imperfect as it may be.

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