Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not the World John Lennon Imagined

Imagine you are driving across Houston, Texas - or any other congested city. You decide to catch a quick catnap before you begin your day. You lay your seat back in the plush interior module of your SUV shell; turn on the massage option to prepare you for the day and drift off.

All this will be made possible by technology. Your "car" is now a PTM or Personal Transportation Module and is incapable of crashing, violating traffic laws, or even getting lost. Everything is programmed to promote safety, the most efficient route (unless you prefer the scenic route, of course), and respect all laws, local, state, and federal.

Ten minutes before arrival at your destination, your PTM pulls through the express lane at Starbucks to collect your regular Danish and cup of mocha latte Joe, which has been preordered and debited from your bank account and whisks you back onto the city streets on time, or 5, 10, or even 15 minutes early as you directed.

Sounds like Utopia, doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Evidently.

Case in point happened on March 9, 2010 in California where a 61-year-old man took a wild ride in a computer-controlled modern automobile. The car decided it was time to accelerate upwards of ninety miles per hour. He could not over-ride the computer and shut off the ignition, or even shift the transmission into neutral. The car in question is pretty much like the cars we all drive. They have a steering wheel, a shifter, a brake, and accelerating pedal and they have a computer.

The computer makes a lot of choices for us we don’t even recognize. It controls how much gas we consume, when the car shifts, which tire gets horsepower to propel us and even controls the temperature inside the cab. How much the computer controls the vehicle is based on how much the vehicle initially costs. The more the automobile or truck costs, the more technology is inherent in the computer controls.

We are rapidly approaching a merger in the automobile and insurance industries and all of this will be accomplished whether we like it or not by government controls, under the auspices of the well being of its citizens. The "public good" we hear so much about is nothing more than rules and regulations, which removes our right to choose. On top of this, our government has decided it is in both the automobile and insurance business.

Smart cars are in our future and we are not as far from it as we may wish to believe. In a government-controlled car, you will have no freedom of choice or privacy. Your GPS coordinates (for safety’s sake - for god’s sake) will pinpoint you at all times. You will be required to purchase a universal module and the only upgrades your neighbors will see is the outer interchangeable shell.

John Lennon, where are you when we need you?

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