Possible Political Opposition to Automated Driving

Will bad, impatient, freedom loving and conspiracy theory drivers oppose automated driving?

In the ideal and probably not too distant future, everything on and near a roadway will be electronically labeled, and they will all share location, speed, and route, and be centralized computer controlled.

The plan for automated driving is first to reduce auto to a small number, saving lives, injuries, costs of repairs, and costs of tank-like autos.  For drivers, there can be smoother flowing traffic, no accident delays, 250 days of concentrating on commuting instead of catching up on sleep, or entertainment, or even collecting on overtime work, and arriving at work and home without suffering severe anxiety.  Smoother driving will save gas, cost, smog pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.  Hopefully, analyses of routes will identify people who can easily carpool, to save gas, costs, reduce traffic, parking costs, pollution, and the use of the most economic and least polluting cars.  Safer driving will also allow autos to be made lighter and less tank-like.

Insurance costs should be greatly lowered for those who adopt automatic driving.  Insurance is costly, especially for young drivers, poor drivers with tickets, and those with expensive cars.  This should readily offset the costs of equipping individual cars, as well as back federal, state, and local expenditures in marking all road signals and signs, and buying the needed computer controls.

Lots of people don’t really stop at stop signs.  Lots don’t obey the speed limits.  Lots don’t signal.  Lots change lanes rather than be patient.  Lots pass bikers closely, rather than wait for clearance.  Lots go through crosswalks as soon as the pedestrian gets out of their way, or before the pedestrian gets in front of them.  Some cross double yellow lines to pass if you are not going uphill fast enough.  Some pass on curves or hills, trusting to luck.  Some feel that when your time is up, that is when you have an accident.  Some trust in dashboard charms.  Many speed past you in a parking lot, while you are slowly pulling out, and they see you doing so.  Many barge through four ways, forgetting the right of way rules, or maybe they forgot them.  Many drive in a hurry.  These people will take control of their cars when they can.

There are those who don’t want their guns registered, or don’t buy them from background check gun stores, and won’t want their auto positions constantly registered.  Some are sure that there is a government conspiracy to do something by watching or tracking us.  These won’t accede to automatic centrally controlled driving.

Parents are already tracking their children’s driving.

Especially, all pedestrians and bicycle riders will have to be tagged with all kinds of reflecting and tracking devices.

In areas where automated driving is optional, cars could still be tracked and drivers rated in a system that could still detect all violations.  After too high an index, they would be required to only drive with automation.  The driving index would also immediately spot drunk, drugged, or sleepy drivers, and automatically turn on automated driving.

This is one of the greatest incursions on people’s habits and considered freedoms.  It is not in the Constitution, since they did not have cars back when.  It would need another Amendment, maybe called the Right to Drive Somewhat Recklessly, and the Right to Forget Some Traffic Rules.

Clearly, rather spacious states where there are few intersections, would oppose all of this automatic driving.  On the other hand, these rural states are where driving can be so boring, and one might be easily distracted or want to concentrate on Rush on radio.

So, it is quite possible that the question of 100% automated driving versus the option to not buy or turn off the automatic control might be split between the political parties, or even come to define a new form of the split.  Then again, the choice of automation may be given to States Rights.  This again would break down by parties where the Northeast states would be automated, as well as the Pacific Coast states, just as the area occupied by the present Democratic States.  Then, as auto companies tried to get a countrywide requirement going, consistent with California’s, the next Republican President and subservient Attorney General would sue the auto companies and Democratic states, removing their rights to agree on requirements.  This would of course end up in the Republican Supreme Court.  The division between automated areas may also come down to cities versus rural areas, again reflecting Democratic versus Republican areas.

After decades of immense progress in automating driving and including everything related to driving and even parking in the Internet of Things, it may come down to the political arena.  One side of this arena is filled with science denying lions, and the other side has the science believer Spartacans.  The primary areas of this conflict are already Climate Science and Climate Change, as well as Conservationism.

Even though, worldwide, autos are now built on the metric system, the UK and English settled areas still drive on the left side of the road.  Although in California it is hard not to trip over Teslas, electric car sales nationwide are only about 5%.  So it is not easy to change people’s driving habits and put them into higher and very important technologies.  Even convincing them that automated driving is a lot safer, may take some time.  But the costs of driving, getting too old to drive, or being too young to drive, or desiring to enjoy an evening out with wine, opens paths to automatic driving.

I don’t have a solution to such a political division.  This is reflected today in the divide that refuses to restrict gun purchases, leading to more deaths.  There is also the unwillingness to effectively treat opioid addiction, on the basis of drug lobbies.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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