Monday, March 5, 2012



In today’s (i.e., Monday, 3/5/12’s, page A13) Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz waxes nearly euphoric over the apparently imminent prospect of cars that motivate themselves with no driver involvement:

Over the next decade, cars could finally become true automobiles. Our laws will have to be updated for a new relationship between people and cars, but the benefits will be significant: fewer traffic accidents and fewer gridlocked roads—and, perhaps best of all, young people will be in self-driving cars, not teenager-driven cars.”

As one who finds driving so pleasurable that I would rather drive than do just about anything else and who finds that even an automatic transmission removes far too much control from the person who is ostensibly operating the car, my first reaction to Mr. Crovitz’s article was to (nearly) scream about how all the collectivist, safety-obsessed busybodies want to remove yet another of life’s delights that they find too dangerous, unfair, unhealthy, or otherwise offensive to their hyper-inflated sense of innate intellectual and moral superiority. My urge to rant and rave was especially acute in this case, when the activity that I love so much is being directly threatened by the enforcers of all things good and proper in their highest of estimations.

On reflection, however, as one who, if I were king, would hand out ten years sentences for failure to use one’s turn signal or for using a celphone, even a “hands-free device," while driving and would introduce mobile electric chairs for those who text and drive, I can see how many people would find a system of self-driven cars so attractive, even imperative. The driving skills and/or habits of the typical American are beyond deplorable; they are downright dangerous to anyone on or in reasonable proximity to a public road. People seem to have no idea that driving is what one does when one is behind the wheel and that driving involves skill, training, and, most of all, attention. People would do well to heed the admonitions contained on my two favorite bumper stickers:

It’s a car, not a phone booth!” and

Forget world peace; envision using your turn signal.”

…but they don’t. They just go on their merry way, blissfully ignorant of anything taking place anywhere around their 4,000 pound dining room/phone booth/web browser/entertainment device.

Mr. Crovitz hinted at this, though he used language that, while colorful, was not nearly as emphatic as mine when he described the activity on the roads as

“…the panorama of indecision, BlackBerry fumbling, rule-flouting, and other vagaries of the humans around us…”

So maybe, given how flawed the human element in driving has become, we would do well to remove the human element from the roads, especially since no one has the courage to place the blame where it really belongs: on those irresponsible menaces to society who insist, to absolutely no resistance, on their right to treat driving as secondary, or tertiary, to more important tasks when they are behind the wheel.

This is by no means an endorsement of robo-cars; life’s pleasures are beginning to dwindle at an increasing rate as I age, so I will fight to the death for this particularly piquant pleasure. My point is that the distinct possibility, or seeming imminence, of a robo-car based transportation system that mandates the abolition of the traditional driver driven car is a perfect illustration of how, in modern America, the responsible ultimately pay the price for the actions of the irresponsible.

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