Red Barchetta Needed in an Age of Autonomous Cars

Skepticism about new technologies has been a part of pop culture since the classic sci-fi movies of the 1950’s, but a long pause is needed when considering thwarting a great American pastime…driving.

New drivers of these so called self-driving four-wheeled steeds will never know the freedom of driving with the joy of shifting through gears racing down beautiful windy roads. Is the point of a car just to get from point A to point B? Hardly, considering the fascination with buying expensive muscle cars on NBCSN. Although, in some states, “ regulations do not prohibit cars without pedals and a steering wheel”, so why not add upgrades like: HD TV with internet instead of a windshield, a fancy velvet couch, a keg of craft IPA in the trunk, and multi-colored beer holders (so inebriated passengers don’t mix up the coffee holders burning their precious selves).

As a naïve college student at UC Berkeley years ago, I recall mentioning in a required Research & Methods course, “If my car worked like my computer I’d drive it off a cliff”. To my surprise, with current technology I won’t have to drive off a cliff because self-driven cars will surely automate that grand event.

Cruising would be a thing of the past except for bored Millennials obsessed with taunting law enforcement that would be forced to waste taxpayer dollars policing autonomous cruisers. Of course officers existing their police vehicles might be at a disadvantage with hundreds of autonomous cars because, “…the LIDAR technology cannot […] discern when humans, such as a police officer, are signaling the car to stop”. As if Napoleon Dynamite had invented LIDAR saying, “It’s like a laser and a car”, using lasers to identify objects and people for all conditions is questionable. Imagine autonomous cars approaching a multi-car pileup on a big interstate in a blizzard, a local running event in any town, or the annual Gay Parade in San Francisco? Nasty words like variables, bugs, hackers and change resound. I hope LIDAR at least identifies when an autonomous car has roof racks with expensive gear on top or outdoorsy adventurous folks might hasten to be loyal customers of the technologies they frequently attempt to escape.

One can only imagine a scene from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” or the recent Geico ad “Hack Attack”, where technology in an office goes terribly awry, when considering, “The [autonomous] vehicle has difficulty identifying when objects, such as trash and light debris, are harmless, causing the vehicle to veer unnecessarily”. Imagine these cars on the streets of New York before trash pickup…exploding towers of garbage assaulting the Big Apple.

For new drivers, driving will be nothing more than a new video game with a funny joystick that controls what they think is a car instead of shifting gears in time, feeling for force of acceleration.

Consider the closing lyrics of the song, “Red Barchetta” from the immortal prog-rock band, Rush: Ride like the wind/Straining the limits/Of machine and man/Laughing out loud with fear and hope/I’ve got a desperate plan….

I’ve got a desperate plan