Car Talk

“Whoever perceives that robots and artificial intelligence are merely here to serve humanity, think again. With virtual domestic assistants and driverless cars just the latest in a growing list of applications, it is we humans who risk becoming dumbed down and ultimately subservient to machines.”

― Alex Morritt

[My apologies to the National Public Radio program, “Car Talk”, for using their name in my title. Not going to talk about car mechanics. The words just work for me here.]

“Hey, Saturn Ion 6524375 – I gotcha on my radar. You might wanna slow down.”

“Hi, Toyota Rav4 10647289. Say what? Sorry, I was just transmitting a pothole problem to the city.”

“I said start breaking!”

“What..ah, gottcha. You gonna stop or what?”

“Don’t think so. The GPS says my driver just left the Moonlight Bar and Grill, he’s already blown a stop sign, so I expect he’ll blow the red he’s coming up on. Which means, if you don’t slow down, we gonna meet up close and personal.”

“Roger that. Thanks for the heads-up.”

They may not be as linguistic, but apparently our automobiles will soon start talking to each other in a way that gets the same info passed along. 

According to a new rule issued two days ago by the Transportation Department and as reported by the Associated Press, “all new cars and light trucks [will] be able to talk wirelessly with each other, with traffic lights and with other roadway infrastructure…vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V, [will enable] cars to transmit their locations, speed, direction and other information 10 times per second. That lets cars detect, for example, when another vehicle is about to run a red light, is breaking hard, changing lanes…in time for the driver or automated safety systems to prevent a crash.”

 I’m all in favor of any assistance I can get when on the road. Especially where I live. Which has the worst drivers of anywhere I’ve lived. A system like the above might allow me to relax a little and enjoy the trip. But I’m a little leery.

Because, as we create robots or artificially intelligent servants, it means less thinking, less awareness, less everything we as individual humans need to do. And whenever anybody or anything does something for us on a regular basis, we start expecting it to be done for us, correctly, all the time.

So we dumb down.

And we’re dumbfounded when it doesn’t happen, when it stops. Which all mechanical systems do. Eventually. Like when your power steering goes out. Or your tire goes flat.

That’s when accidents happen.

If you’re not paying close attention and immediately take action. Which you won’t, if you’re just watching the scenery pass by, expecting your car to behave and work as expected and take any evasive or other needed actions… and it fails.

I don’t know how concerned to be about this new system. I don’t trust technology all that much anyway. But, if  cars can talk to each other wirelessly, who’s to say your insurance company isn’t listening in to raise your premiums if they decide you’re a risky driver (changing lanes too frequently or habitually exceeding the speed limit by 3-4 mph, or regularly frequenting bars late at night) or the police, who mail you a ticket for running that stop sign that your car and onboard GPS confirm and report (even if no one was around to see it?), or the Ex who gets someone to hack it and cause it to fail exactly when you need it to avoid that wrong-way car in your lane just around that bend?

That’s just peachy keen. I mean, any of those possibilities have to concern somebody.

Anyway, the AP notes, “The proposal calls for 50 percent of new vehicles to have the technology within two years after a final rule is issued [which will be a few years from now], and 100 percent…within four years…but the process…may go faster if…devices are developed that enable motorists to add the technoloy to older vehicles.”

Certain GM and Mercedes models will have the system in 2017. A model for both Joe Sixpack and Mr. Dom Perignon.

Just letting all you technophiles and car buffs know, so you can be the first person on your block to have one.

– Bill

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