Saturday, October 16, 2010

Automatic Self-driving Cars

Not so incredibly, Google has been working to wed its incredible database of roadways and GPS points to some kind of camera feedback loop to make cars which drive themselves. There are a zillion ways in which this is a good idea.

Driving along the highway myself these days, I can already feel the murderous rage around me as we all fail to sync our cruise controls. You pass a car just at what you have decided is your own personal safe margin over the speed limit - no question now that the highly automated highway cops are out in fullest force - and inevitably someone creeps up behind you, angry seeming from the look on their grille, and you fear their headlight flashes, and surely won't make eye contact. But you absolutely don't want that ticket which might await you over the next hill, already knowing perfectly well that the officer will not be interested in your perfectly reasonable story about your diligent efforts for the greater good.

You sense the road rage when the saturated flow naturally bunches up to read those automagic digital roadsigns. Or to rubberneck some tragedy. Cops now seem to have license tag scanners, just like at border crossings, and their control panels must flash or beep at them when they spot a live one. Any excuse, right? Just not on my side.

The main thing with these Google self-driving cars will be that we can sync our cruise controls and optimize the intervals and never bunch and hardly ever brake. Plus, if we all drive Priuses, like the Google test car, then we can regenerate at those rare intervals when we need to slow.

You do wonder at what will inevitably be the rage of families when the entire system does crash as by the laws of mathematics it inevitably must. I mean, consider the mass hysteria and anger toward Toyota for its boneheaded equation of ignition with digital power. It must have seemed like good idea at the time, that universal power symbol. Costly in retrospect.

Turning on now is so much identical to being real turned off and defenestration prone and frustrated to the point of busting an artery. As with airplane disasters, it seems so much more extreme when it isn't anybody's fault. Plus then, as with the miners or with New Orleans vs. Buffalo, say, or with the trade towers or even with bus crashes, there's so much more room for people already in power to posture as heroes. To slather on some real money, based, one can only guess, on the PR returns on the dollar. Heaven help the person pegged with fault.

I mean, would it matter to you if the overall rate of mayhem is that much lower if you are the one caught in the system crash? By that time, the new ways would be normalized and the old ways would look gruesome and troglodyte, like Chinese or jihadi beheadings. We will have progressed that much in our outrage. Imagine accepting that much risk that willingly. Taking responsibility for the wheel of so much hurtling metal. With only the vaguest promise of exploding airbags which you surely never hope to experience. Such ringing in the ears.

Trains might work, or are they just too low tech? Is physical connection just that much less exciting than the virtual kind? Is fantasy sex the only good kind, Lust, Caution, even face to facebook? Is it only cool if the cars of the train magically adjust to our individual pods, no mechanical anything, and we become as fish in a pond or birds in the sky, or leaves floating down the bluster as I was so pleased to witness yesterday on the impossible to navigate back-roads of Pennsylvania?

Because there is no data service to power my Google maps in them thar hills. Because there is no sense to PA route numbers. Because a map looks like hungover eyeball capillaries, and there's no getting there from here apart from the Interstates, and no wonder those intersections are what defines the addresses of the Big Boxes, since everyone in PA seems to crave a life of seeming wilderness. The real money is in the outback.

Is that really where we still want to go? Back to that future, built upon a long-lost bankrupt mined out past?

I mean really now, if we are going to act and behave and insist that we must each of us control our own high-tech wombspaces - hurtling, stationary wombs-with-views (r) -  Wouldn't it be enough (Hoover Blanket subliminal messaging) to program in the relationships and do away with the centralized repository of data? Is there really a need for a central brain analog?

I know Google's really really on the side of the angels, but still there is too much concentration there. And too much concentration leads inevitably as the sun follows the night to absolute corruption, right? Something like that. And it's so utterly unnecessary! There is only the most marginal advantage to having your self-driving car wired in that tightly to some central database. There would have to be so much temptation for the Big Brother. The limit beyond which you wouldn't even dare to think . . . . .

Well, think about it, since pretty soon it will be already way too late.

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