Monday, June 1, 2015

Autonomous Cars - Why Not Just Take a Bus or the Metro?

There's been a lot of buzz about autonomous vehicles lately. Wow a car that drives itself! Instead of enveloping each person in his or her own little metal capsule that gets not better mileage than a regular car, why not just take the bus, which will get much better mileage per person than any car, autonomous or otherwise? 

Google Self-Driving Car

Cars are the root of all the evil that threatens humankind and its fellow creatures today. Without cars, we wouldn't have the sprawl, the consequent destruction of animal habitats, and the insane runaway consumerism that has so cheapened human life and wreaked our climate. The wide use of automobiles has opened a Pandora's box of ecological devastation, and autonomous vehicles would be just one more step in the hideously wrong path automobiles have put us on. 

Where has this unquestioning love for technology for technology's sake come from? As a young boy, I loved the Jetsons as much as anyone, but I never thought for one moment that it represented the kind of world I wanted to live in. It represented a fantasy world that was fun to imagine living in, but a nightmare world if it ever became reality. The ideal world for me was one with rushing streams, forests of trees stirred by cool, fresh breezes, and fields dotted with flowers. That was the ideal world I saw myself living in. Such a world has been inhabited by humans for millenia. Why replace such an idyllic world of forests, fields, streams, and animals, with a nightmare world of sterile towers and autonomous vehicles? If I were religious, I would think that civilization had become possessed by a devil.

Just because we can do something doesn't always mean we should do something. We can blow up millions of people with a hydrogen bomb, but that doesn't mean we should. Do we want to live in a world full of blithering idiots, riding around in their autonomous vehicles, yapping with both hands free into their Android phones, oblivious to the ecological devastation they are leaving in their wake? Wait a minute... maybe that's part of the reason behind Google's fascination with autonomous vehicles. Currently, responsible drivers, rare as they are, put their phones away while driving. In an autonomous vehicle, you can talk, text, game, and watch Netflix to your heart's content. Meanwhile, the forests are cut down to make way for more asphalt, more petroleum is fracked, and more species go extinct! In an autonomous vehicle you don't even need to look out the window. Just eliminate the windows and project images of lakes, mountains, and castles to give the passenger the illusion he is driving through an idyllic Bavarian fairy tale landscape - much better than the reality of blight that truly lies on the outside. You will be able to go from you neat little home to your cozy office without ever seeing the denuded landscape that lies between your point of origin and your destination. It's the ultimate dream, we can continue destroying the Earth without ever coming into any kind of contact with the ugly reality of what our technological progress is doing to it.

It's all so unnecessary and pointlessly destructive. If you want to travel with your hands free, then ride the bus, take the metro, and when going really far, go by train. These traditional modes of transport are the ones we should be investing in. Autonomous vehicles, like so much of the hi-tech dreck that intoxicates us these days, are cool technology but ultimately worse than worthless.

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