Say ‘No’ to the Driverless Car—for Civilization’s Sake

One of the hallmarks of the American experiment has been freedom of movement. Facing a vast, largely unoccupied continent, the pioneers headed west at the first opportunity, pushing the boundaries of first the colonies and then the new nation inexorably over the mountains, across the plains, past the mighty Rockies, and finally all the way to the Pacific.

James Fenimore Cooper gave this distinctly American ethos a memorable literary incarnation in the form of Natty Bumppo, the fictional hero of the Leatherstocking Tales—the most famous of which is The Last of the Mohicans, but whose titles also include The Pioneers and The Prairie.

Ever westward was Hawkeye’s motto, and Cooper’s novel both codified existing American sentiment and made it aspirational as well; whenever civilization in the form of Aunt Sally encroached, a Real American like Huck Finn simply lit out for the territory, as he does at the end of the first great American novel, Huckleberry Finn:

But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

But an American didn’t always have to go west in order to escape “sivilization” or even just to seek his fortune in wild and woolly places. Everybody knows the opening three words of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, but to really understand this greatest of all American novels, you need to know the first three paragraphs, the first of which includes this memorable declaration of belligerent American independence:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.

These days, Real Americans don’t much go to sea to relieve the damp, drizzly Novembers in our souls, but we do like to fire up the muscle Mustang or the F-150 truck with the gun rack and head out on the open road, following our noses and letting the trade winds blow us where they may.

Or at least we used to like it. But with the advent of the abomination known as the “self-driving car,” one of our most precious freedoms is now in jeopardy.

I mean, who asked for this? Communists? Women? (I know, same thing, voting-wise.) Sob sisters, pantywaists, geeks, pencil necks, and nancy boys? I suspect them all. It’s bad enough to climb into the cockpit of a new car these days and be confronted with a home entertainment center on wheels, complete with giant video screens that don’t do a damn thing electronically a 1934 Packard couldn’t do manually back in the day when men were men, women loved them for it, and we had the culture to prove it.

Now what? A “self-driving” car is an oxymoron, in the same way that “paying for a tax cut” is. Someone or something is going to be driving that car, and the whole point here is that it ain’t going to be you, brother.

For while you may at first think you are directing the destination of the vehicle, the fact is you’re a passenger in a computer-controlled mobile living-room whose every move is dictated by Big Brother, whether directly or remotely. It’s bad enough now, when the computers in your car can rat you out to highway checkpoints, and your Bluetooth-connected cell phone broadcasts your whereabouts to every law enforcement officer in the county.

But once the “self-driving” car juts its snout into the marketplace, and tries to drive out the you-driving cars, whom do you think is going to be calling the shots? In quick succession, say hello to the road-mileage tax and ever more vehicles on the roads, given that no one will have to qualify for a vision-tested or skills-tested drivers’ licenses anymore.

Be also prepared for restrictions on where and when you can be chauffeured around in robot-propelled comfort; which kinds of gasoline you may purchase, and when; and with whom you may someday be forced to share your vehicle as the cars are pre-programmed at the factory to respond to commands from elsewhere, including checking IDs. We used to want God to be our co-pilot; instead, we’re going to get Google.

So buy that car you’ve been fancying—you know, the one with a functioning steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes; the one that goes where you want it to, more or less—while you still can, because an unholy alliance of national-security TSA types, social justice warriors, and tech nerds are bound and determined to take it away from you. We can’t have folks mucking about inside of Fortress America, free to go when and where they please, without so much as a by-your-leave. From King of the Road to a sack of spuds, suitable for carting, in just a few postwar generations: welcome to the world of the Emasculated American Male.

What could possibly go wrong with a technological marvel like this? Edgar Rice Burroughs told us in Thuvia, Maid of Mars:

He had been but testing an invention of his own with which his flier was equipped—a clever improvement of the ordinary Martian air compass, which, when set for a certain destination, will remain constantly fixed thereon, making it only necessary to keep a vessel’s prow always in the direction of the compass needle to reach any given point upon Barsoom by the shortest route.

Carthoris’ improvement upon this consisted of an auxiliary device which steered the craft mechanically in the direction of the compass, and upon arrival directly over the point for which the compass was set, brought the craft to a standstill and lowered it, also automatically, to the ground . . .

“In aggravated cases, that is when the obstructions are many, or of such a nature as to deflect the bow more than forty-five degrees in any direction, or when the craft has reached its destination and dropped to within a hundred yards of the ground, the mechanism brings her to a full stop, at the same time sounding a loud alarm which will instantly awaken the pilot. You see I have anticipated almost every contingency.”

The forward servant pushed almost to the flier’s side. His eyes were narrowed to slits. “All but one,” he said. “Come,” urged the Prince of Helium. “Speak!” The man hesitated. It was evident that he regretted the temerity that had made him the centre of interested observation. But at last, seeing no alternative, he spoke.

“It might be tampered with,” he said, “by an enemy.”

So just in case you think things can’t get any worse, think again: “Airbus is looking towards a future of pilotless planes.”

We’ve seen this movie before, and we all know how it ended.


About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules (Photo credit: Peter Duke Photo)

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130 responses to “Say ‘No’ to the Driverless Car—for Civilization’s Sake”

  1. Absolutely excellent summation of what was bugging me. I find this whole concept to be repulsive. Unfortunately, it’s also probably inevitable. Sticking with the sci-fi literature, it’s probably time to take a page from Heinlein and to start seriously looking for a new planet, because this one is definitely headed in the wrong direction liberty-wise and I have no idea how to turn it around.

    • It’s not inevitable if we deem it unacceptable.

      I don’t have a problem with experiments. Unfortunately if there are experiments there well be creeping complulsority — or whatever that word would be.

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      • I believe the word be compulsion. I understand that these cars don’t deal well with aggressive drivers (getting cut off and all that). I guess there are some sabotage angles that could be exploited.

      • Let’s see. Someone is hacking into (supposedly) secure websites to steal IDs and personalized data on a regular basis–but the smart-set is going to figure out autonomous vehicles. This track record appears to demonstrate these vehicles are a pipe dream. But some gotta dream.

      • Encryption is far outpacing decryption. Thankfully those who understand the technical aspect of the issue are well past your facile worries.

      • You can rest assured my effortless worries have been eased due to the power of your argument and authority. Remember to duck…

      • Your argument: computers can *potentially* be compromised by hackers, therefore self driving cars will never happen.

        My statement: encryption is far outpacing decryption, meaning that in time things will be harder to hack than they are now, even with advancements on the opposite side. On top of this, the meta layer is that we can add stopgaps should encryption fail.

        Have fun in the slow lane, bud.

      • Yeah, I don’t know about you but my computer operated items, from my stove to my phone to my microwave to my washing machine to my thermostat to my lab equipment to my GPS to my car tend to work just fine.

      • It’s not the encryption that’s the issue, it’s the use of PASS WORD as a password. Yeah, you’ll supply the things with one-time passwords so the user has to choose his own or it all locks up, yeah, yeah, but you’ll have an ‘uncrackable’ back door password for use by the manufacturer to update the software …

        Yeah I see why you’re not worried.

      • Yeah, I don’t think you get that self driving cars don’t need passwords. They’d be handy for personal settings, however.

        Ps if you have a car made post late 00s it has a computer in it. And if you have a modern appliance, most have computers that connect to the internet.

        Hell modern planes are mostly flown by computers.

        Have fun staying in the cave, we’ll just leave you behind.

      • I can see cars with steering wheels, accelerator pedals, brake pedals, etc., becoming as “dangerous” as firearms. Once upon a time, it was perfectly ordinary. After a while, the question becomes “why do you NEED that”.

    • It looks inevitable only because technology has been liberated from moral and political control, that is, from we the citizens. Same thing with robots making everybody unemployed (and then the dolts receiving a “salary” from the government for doing nothing), or Bezos, Zuckerberg and other tycoons becoming “enhanced” humans and dominating the rest of us “naturals,” etc. If we accept this, we deserve it.

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    • The problem on this planet is the people. The people likely to first go to a new planet would be exemplars of the worst of the problem here — Elon Musk and family?

      I think we best focus on our own rock. We do not need to know how to turn things around liberty-wise because Reality has a voice and She very much favors liberty.

      Do what seems best today and trust Reality to provide options and guidance for tomorrow.

    • The problem is that most people don’t think this way. Most people rush to adopt any sort of technology without giving a thought to its effect. And most people will vote for politicians who will ban non-robot vehicles.

      Why do we have so much problematic, unnecessary technology in cars now, that only make the vehicles more delicate and difficult to repair? Some is there because the government — elected by Americans — mandates that, with the people’s approval. Some is there because most people WANT all this technology and will buy whatever car has the most of it.

      If they made 1960s knockoff automobiles I would buy one. (And I’m not that old a coot; I couldn’t drive until 1980.)
      But not many others feel the same way.

      • What about motorbikes? And what about choice? Also what about the cost…you can buy a second hand car for a few hundred quid…what if your credit rating is bad and you haven’t got £10000+ handy?

        And the driverless cars I have seen are horrible looking.

  2. I don’t get how insurance/liability won’t bankrupt the whole idea…. that is, unless legislatures get involved and dole out special dispensation. In a wreck, will the no-driver car always get benefit of doubt if other vehicle is not “smart”? Will areas demand only “new” cars with sensors in certain areas or roadways? Cause the only way this works is if every car or the majority of them are smart/aware or driverless. I can see our betters forcing this. Certain roads will be illegal to drive on with a pre-2020 vehicle, etc.

    Me? I was thinking,.. starting a club to spite driverless cars. Make an effort to impede them. Nothing illegal. But drive 15 mpg slower than need to. Extra long stops at signs/lights. Merge right in front of them on highway, b/c you know they will yield… that have to be programmed that way. Too harsh?

    • It’ll be exactly like ‘renewable’ energy: If economic and actuarial facts get in the way of the Arc of History ™ Congress will make it all go away with laws. Insurance companies for driverless cars will be held harmless for any accident and the company of the car with the driver will have to pay.

      So with illegals not carrying insurance and driverless car owners getting theirs for pennies on the dollar what do you think will happen to YOUR rates?

      You BET legislatures will get involved. This is the next Global Warming/Climate Instability and a whole battalion of Al Gores are lining up at the gate to collect their payoffs from the scam. Right behind them? Those are Congressmen who expect to be Very Liberally Greased and who will prove 100% honest when paid enough by Google, Microsoft, and Uber: They’ll stay bought.

      We need to hit pause on this thing right now. The only good news is that as you hint the end with the teeth is much more subject to direct action than has been the case for Gerbil Warming. Those things will be rolling laptops and every bit as fragile as the regular size.

      • In a world of 100% driverless vehicles, why would the vehicle’s driverless owner be forced to purchase insurance if the responsibility for the vehicle’s control is removed?

      • Good question. Perhaps the manufacturer should be the one to bear that cost?

    • Insurance will drive it, because the cars will be safer than human driven, and insurance rates will reflect that.

  3. I’m an engineer and while I don’t know everything, I know that control systems cannot come close to a human’s abilities to control a car. The lawsuits will pile up and the idea will fade away.

    • Right. There was a recent story of a demonstration of a Caddy with a driver-less option, on the DC beltway. Guess what happened when the Caddy, with all the bigwigs, tried to get from the on-ramp across six lanes to get to a left exit? That’s right, the human driver had to go to manual override! The driver-less algorithm could not handle the kill-or-be-killed protocol of bumper-to-bumper near any densely populated area.
      Today, somebody gets into an accident, from fender bender to head-on, 99% of the time one or both drivers are causal of the event. In a driver-less context, a John Edwards type, with twelve mongoloid idiots hanging on his every word, will blame the manufacturer, the sensor vendor, the software engineers, and hang them all.
      No thanks.

      • What you didn’t say is that had all the other cars been driverless, the whole works would have wound up as one giant wrecking yard.

      • Or, they all would have communicated and worked it out in a more efficient manner than any human could.

      • The problem with ‘communicated and worked it out’ is that in bumper to bumper traffic the solution is inherently unstable. Human drivers deal with this by driving to stabilize things and by using extra information like the behavior of the traffic stream as far ahead as can be seen — on a curve, for example. But the other drivers often DISAGREE with the resulting tactics. So … maybe the robots won’t let their putative drivers have an input? Or will those drivers instead take over the controls because “I don’t have time for this B.S.”?

        You provide a perfect example. Would all the other (driverless) cars actually be operating with enough space for an entering vehicle to cross six lanes without causing a problem? How would that work?

      • Nah, you just won’t be driving. Or the data could be sent from one car to the other noting a moving object (noncommunicating car) and data about it and adjust accordingly.

        In bumper to bumper self driving cars win again. Imagine everyone is bumper to bumper; if all cars accelerate at the same rate and maintain minimum distance everyone can drive safely and move without having to wait for humans and their impatient stop go inefficiency.

    • I’m also an engineer and I ditto everything else Walpurgis said.

      One thing additional: I worked on this stupid idea a bit when it was first proposed, early 70’s. TRW I think? It was a turkey then, too.

      Among other things the stability of a system of thousands or ??? of independent entities cannot be assured absent some overall control that knows EVERYTHING. Human drivers provide that control and it’s the reason that all bumper to bumper 55-MPH traffic doesn’t wind up in a series of chained collisions. We don’t do that perfectly but we do it well enough that we rarely let the worst case happen.

      The AI guys will say “Well, we’ll tune our programs to know about that.” Maybe … after we have a couple of 350 car collisions on the Washington Beltway.

      You can make up a lot of these cases and doubtless many of them will be dealt with. And anyway — they tell us — so many lives will be saved that the few added deaths will be unimportant.

      I’ll do what I can to let this lesson be learned by others. We just have to hope this isn’t the Global Climate whatever of the next decade.

      • Earlier than that – Walt Disney’s “Disneyland” included an episode about the idea in the ’50s.

        If it came about then, in that optimistic post-war period Disney helped promote, I’d trust it more. Not now.

      • I’m a scientist and the data is against you. Self-driving cars are far superior than your average human and have fast reaction times, more senses, and better driving ability.

        It’s happening sooner rather than later. You don’t have to ride in them if you don’t like, but let me have the freedom to do as I please.

      • Evidently you’re not much good with the English language, “scientist,” or you’d have noticed I never suggested anything to the contrary. Although if you value self-preservation, I’ll take my driving ability over a self driving car which decides for itself ahead of a collision if I get to live out the other guy.

        And if anything, there’s an effort to deny ME the freedom to drive my manual transmission pony car by many of those promoting self-driving cars.

      • You’ll take you reaction time that doesn’t allow you to decide the safest scenario for you OR the other guy? Seems like the smart choice⸮

        Possibly, but it is predicated on access to a public system (I personally would prefer it private but that’s neither here nor there) and as such you have not “right” or “freedom” to it. I don’t have the freedom to drive a car that doesn’t meet certain standards or have a lack of ability up to a certain standard yet drive a car for the same reason.

        Have fun in the slow lane.

      • F*ck the other guy.

        “Scientist,” have fun being passed by my human-operated muscle car while you hog the “fast” lane in your speed limit observing electric mobile appliance, while waiting in vain for the highly unlikely extreme & emergency circumstances where an EV’s superior reaction time make a noticeable difference. At least until rain or snow interfere with your cameras and sensors and their ability to operate your vehicle, while the good old Mark One eyeball keeps doing its thing.

      • You don’t understand how self driving cars work, do you? They communicate with each other allowing them to drive in unison. Aka my speed limit will be dictated by the hive of self driving vehicles, and you aren’t allowed to join us because you’ll slow us down.

        And oh dear, rain? Whatever will we do? There’s no way we can figure out a way to adjust driving patterns to account for this variable!

      • If your sensors are getting all sorts of false positives or blocked fields of view from so much as a bit of rain – and this is a common problem with collision avoidance systems – then three moist sensible thing is to slow everything down beyond what an average driver relying on eyes could achieve.

        And if you’re such a pathetic pvssy commuter who needs to be controlled, take the train. Because it’ll be a pleasure cutting you off, brake checking, and generally slowing down your “unison”

      • Again, no. You have a severe lack of knowledge about self driving cars and how they work. The AI uses multiple sensors and can sense conditions and respond accordingly.

        It will only get better and better. If you don’t die due to running with scissors or something, you’ll see them all over the road in all conditions in just a few years.

        Columbus doesn’t have a passenger train (and I hope it never does). I don’t need controlled, I willingly will get in a self driving vehicle not because I don’t enjoy driving (I drive an Audi for cripes sake) but because it is far more efficient and I can work on the drive and it is safer and faster and cheaper and I can pound bourbon in the back with no repercussions.

      • Another engineer here. I agree, and with decades of experience in pattern recognition using all of the standard sensors these cars use, I will never step foot in one. Unfortunately, I believe what will happen is that an acceptable level of error will be declared, and if the accident rate for AIs becomes less than that of people who live in meatspace, then it will be required. The insurance company lobbyists will ensure this.

      • You’re surely correct and what you indicate will indeed be the goal. All it’ll take is a statute that says the presumption is that the fault lies with the human driver in every case and — poof! It’s impossible for a human driver to afford insurance as the human fraction goes down year by year.

        If the government backstops the ‘driverless’ insurance policies — a subsidy similar to what’s being given to electric vehicles — their insurance becomes close to free.

        HOWEVER: Unlike with Gerbil Warming and EVs, it’s up to Americans whether driverless cars sweep the field. It’s too early to call that game.

      • There is no way they will get allowed on the road past the experimental stage unless the accident rate is an order of magnitude less than what humans presently achieve.

      • You misunderestimate the foolishness of progressives and their pet Congress, I’m afraid.

      • When ‘foolishness’ and ‘making money’ agree on the answer, ‘Reality’ has a tough game. But She does not give up …

      • Very true. But also don’t underestimate lawyers that smell money when big accidents cost human lives. They will be sued out of existence if the lawyers are really hungry.

      • It has been a while since the 70’s. Compute power is many orders of magnitudes higher (check Moore’s law).
        Sensors (and digital cameras) also had 40 years to improve.
        We currently have 40,000 dead people in car accidents, almost all of them due to human error. Also, I would rather have my commute time to do something useful / pleasant rather than waste it driving a car.

    • I’m a soon-to-be-retired developer of business apps, which I’m sure are considerably less complicated than the software to manage a driverless car. I know how hard it is to get the bugs out of business apps. I can’t imagine something NOT going wrong with the driverless car.

    • I am also an engineer, and I strongly disagree with you. Maybe you work with dumb control systems. Cars will not be driven by those, but by much smarter ones. Yes, there will be lawsuits. But the insurers will be offering much lower rates on AI driven cars, because of the much lower accident rates.

      There have been dramatic breakthroughs in AI and related technologies such as image recognition. These will push the change.

      I, for one, will be glad to have the ability to do something else while going down the road in my own car, but I am not wealthy enough to pay for a human driver. The time wasted in driving is immense.

  4. Yikes. Walsh hits it out of the park each time he takes a swing. Too bad he didn’t go to Houston with my Yankees last month.
    Driver-less cars are the worst case scenario for LAZY people.
    I drive a stick because I DRIVE THE CAR, not vice versa.
    If I want to granny shift, I granny shift. If I want to flog it, I flog it.
    Driver-less is packing yourself into the Body Snatcher pods.
    No thanks.

    • You are the exception, rather than the rule.
      Many drivers (most?) wouldn’t know what that third pedal was for, let alone how to use it.
      We’ve been slipping into the driver-less cars for as long as cars have been around.
      Think anyone, nowadays, could crank over an engine? And if the mechanism existed, without breaking their arm.
      The latest-and-greatest takes away one of the skills required for getting a driver’s license – parallel parking – and I am sure there are many, who just love the idea of not having to face that task, ever again.
      That car that parks itself is already driving without a driver. It turns the wheel by itself and uses sensors to determine how close it is to objects around it, so that it doesn’t strike them.
      Think that technology is far from being able to drive around, using sensors and GPS navigation? Think again.

    • Yeah, driving cuts into my productivity. When I’m driving, I can’t be working on other things.

      “Man, those people digging holes with excavators and pushing dirt with bulldozers? LAZY. Me? I’m a real hard worker over here digging with a stick.”

  5. “I’ll give you my C-5 Corvette when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”.

  6. spot on. it is even more insidious when we consider who is behind this idea and why. if we will live in the dystopian world that is emerging without the consent or control of the people this and much worse is coming

  7. How many people here think that has the data integrity/security track record of our government — Office of Personnel Management loss of (I think?) 1.5 MILLION records containing SSNs, security clearances …, the hacking of the Obamacare site a few times and So Much More — suggests it can supervise the security of the data links to driverless cars? And don’t say “But private industry …” Major credit cards, one of the three credit reporting agencies, Ashley Morgan (‘affairs’ online) and many others have been hacked or accidentally dumped vast amounts of highly confidential data.

    So why couldn’t ISIS 2025 distribute a windows virus that sends commands causing 10,000 driverless cars to accelerate to 100 MPH and drive into the next bridge abutment?

    Yeah that could never happen because …

    We can prevent driverless cars. And we must.

    • So why couldn’t ISIS 2025 distribute a windows virus that sends commands causing 10,000 driverless cars to accelerate to 100 MPH and drive into the next bridge abutment?What’s stopping ISIS 2017 from doing that now? My 13-year-old car has automatic cruise control, anti-lock brakes, and vehicle stability control. Those systems can easily cause my car to accelerate to 100 MPH and drive into the next bridge abutment.

      Why hasn’t ISIS caught on in the past 13 years, since it’s apparently so very easy to do so?

      • Tesla’s been remotely updating software via wifi for over five years and tens of thousands of vehicles. No ISIS-hacker-causes-Tesla-to-crash-into-bridge-at-100mph incidents that I’m aware of.

      • Because most cars aren’t on the network. and yes, there have been a few examples of cars that have in fact been hacked (why in the wold would you network the entertainment system and allow it to take over the engine control system?) but there really isn’t much need for car control systems to be networked.

  8. I don’t think these driverless cars will work in bad weather. These things depend on being able to see the road, its markings, and road signs with their sensors. They depend on the wheels actually having traction on the road. Have any of these things been tested in an East Coast winter? I doubt it. If driverless cars become commercial, the cars will have to be programmed to simply not go at all in adverse conditions.

  9. spot on. it is even more insidious when we consider who is behind this idea and why. if we will live in the dystopian world that is emerging without the consent or control of the people this and much worse is coming

  10. It is even worse than this. In Washington state (Seattle lefties, of course) they are already talking about shutting down a 60 mile stretch of Interstate 5 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to anything but “driverless” cars.
    Consider what that means for the average yahoo, who must drive this stretch of highway to get to work,
    Moreover, what could easily result from this is a state mandated set of *routes* that citizens would be limited to; then again, for the citizen who wishes to enjoy driving they will be limited to off hours use of the publicly financed highway system AND in the end those who do not use driverless cars will have no choice but to either live in the Leftist *paradise of Seattle* of will have to work night or graveyard shifts.

  11. It seems as though local governments are for driverless cars. So they most certainly hope that one of their driverless cars does not hit my car. If it does they will be sued, the car manufacturer will be sued, the software provider will be sued, and I will wind up with about a trillion in damages….

    Those things are nothing more than computers, just like the one sitting next to me with a bad motherboard.

    I would much rather put my care into the hands of a human who can make decisions when the mother board dies……or the software is hacked…..

    • Good luck with that.
      One of the first pieces of legislation surrounding the common usage of driver-less cars, especially if government is operating them, will be that the computer can never be held to be at fault. It will always be you, the human.

      • I do not think i said anything about suing a computer….and I thought i was pretty clear that i said if one of those cars hit me, not the other way around. But i do get your point. The tyranny of big government will never be held accountable….

  12. I am a retired professional pilot with over 16,000 hours in the air (plus another 6,500 or so as an Air Force crewmember.) I flew on autopilot most of the time, as all pilots with any sense do. However, we were NEVER closer to another airplane than 1,000 feet horizontally and several miles vertically when on instruments (most professional flying is on instrument flight plans.) Even when I flew under visual rules, the only place where I was in close proximity to other airplanes was while taxiing on the ground (same for IFR.) Driverless cars will be INCHES from other vehicles. Nope, there is just too much that can go wrong. They shoudl never be allowed on public roads.

    Now, it is true that the aviation industry is developing pilotless airplanes and it is entirely possible to operate them. After all, airplanes are already designed to be operated on autopilot from right after takeoff to landing. Zero/zero landings call for the airplane to be on autopilot to the runway (but not to taxi.) Pilotless airplanes are viable; driverless cars are dangerous.

    • Absolutely right. Walsh gets it backwards. Pilotless planes should come before driverless cars. The air traffic problem is infinitely simpler. And when airline passengers voluntarily buy tickets on pilotless planes, I’ll be ready for a self-driving car.

    • Driverless cars are also freedomless cars. My freedoms have been chipped deeply enough. No further!

  13. All these technologies that require just and competent government to work properly, and how many tech overlords do we have who want just and competent government?
    Thiel, maybe?

  14. At the turn of the 20th century a conglomerate of oil, rubber, auto and tire companies worked to dismantle the railway system set up during the 19th century in order to facilitate a car oriented society.

    by the 50’s America was building the highway system even when density of cars really did not require this highway system. At that time the highway was more useful for rapid deployment of the military. By the 70’s we became completely dependent on the car. Unlike other major economies we never built a viable mass transit system after the railways were dismantled.

    What the driver less car does is hand over our power to a company that uses computers relayed to Satellites which control these cars. I guess the “driver” still has to have a driver’s licence, pay the premiums and insurance even when he is not driving the car and the company could be located in China.

    If there are issues with the IRS or the government they can have that electric driver less car shut down or even stop it in the middle of the road if the police requests it. We lost complete control.

    • So you’re sayin’ that back in the day, Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers got somehow with Goodrich and Firestone, and with Standard Oil and they somehow ganged up on the railroad tycoons… the richest in the country and somehow got the Congress to regulate the RR in the early 1900’s ? Not because the RR’s were having lots of safety issues and were largely unregulated… So Ford is the first one to make cars cheap enough for normal folks to buy… in ’08.. about the time of RR regulation. And cars were so plentiful that folks stopped riding the trains?

      I thought it was trains lost money with passenger traffic, and as they were squeezed by regulations, it became more and more expensive to haul passengers, so they gave that up to focus on freight… where the money was. Buses largely picked up passenger traffic until after the war when passenger planes became affordable for the middle class and up.

      • Yes. I Googled and you may need to do more research. Here is a bit from the Huffington Post:
        “But in the years between 1936 and 1950, there took place one of the sorriest events in our nation’s history—what has become known as the “Great American Streetcar Scandal.” A number of large corporations, including General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, and Phillips Petroleum, operating secretly through front organizations, conspired to purchase streetcar systems in forty- five major U.S. cities, including Detroit, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. The consortium then proceeded to completely dismantle the trolley systems, ripping up their tracks and tearing down their overhead wires….”

      • Fine, but that’s apples and oranges. You said at the turn of the century in your initial comment AND you said “railway system”… not trolley cars. There was a deliberate effort to get rid of trolley cars… but those were in middle and large cities. That’s not a railway system. Were you alive in the 70’s? We weren’t any more dependent on them then than in the 50’s or 60’s. It’s a big-city thing vs rural.. And a LOT of big cities WANTED to get rid of their trolley systems b/c of accidents with cars, they could make money deals with bus lines and taxis’ and it usually meant they could add parking meters along the side for more revenue. It’s not as sinister a thing , getting rid of trolleys…. and none of that had ANYTHING to do with getting rid of passenger rail.

  15. Just drove to Boise and back over back roads for Thanksgiving in a sweet little six cylinder turbocharged BMW X1. Pushing hard, it became very Zen in its way. Beats watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory while your car does the driving.

  16. One. Abolish the CAFE standards.

    Two. Clearly written legislation that attaches each self-driving car to a specific owner–a human, not a corporation. Then make that owner fully responsible for any damage cause by that car.

  17. I mean, who asked for this?

    I did. Driving is 99% boring. Driving to work is boring. Driving from Dallas to Chicago is boring. It’s drudge work. I want my car to drive me to wherever I want to go. I have better things to do than act as a meat servo to some (literally) stupid car.

    The author sounds like the banker who was advising a gentleman who was contemplating investing in Henry Ford’s company over 100 years ago:

    The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad,
    President of the Michigan Savings Bank (1903)

    The author fails to grasp that autonomous cars don’t drive drunk, don’t get tired, don’t text while driving. The fact is, 37,461 people were killed in traffic accidents in the US last year, up 5.6% from last year, which was up 8.6% over 2014. AVs will almost certainly reduce traffic deaths by an order of magnitude. So instead of 37,000 people killed every year, only 3.700 people would die.

    I suspect that amazing reduction in annual deaths will spur calls to eliminate human drivers. Chapters of Mothers Against Self Driving© will spring up in every city and town in the US to demand government put an end to human drivers. Because, if it saves the life of even one child, won’t it be worth it? Politicians will be helpless to stop it.

    There will be a compromise, though. Laws will be written to allow humans to driver their old-fashioned cars from 10am to 4pm on Sundays only. You’ll find them and their cars at something called a Sonic in the late afternoon, wearing leather jackets and complaining about how kids today can’t do anything because they never learned to drive.

    Back in my day a man drove his own car! We didn’t need no fancy autonomous cars to take us around, and we liked it!

  18. Driverless cars? Try driverless long-haul trucks. No driver to get fatigued.

  19. This is a conversation worth having. Part of these cars will be recording passenger conversations, and then comes voice recognition and warrentless recording. Wouldn’t a tyrant like that?

    • They likely won’t be retrained. But they will be replaced, soon, by autonomous trucks.

      First, you will see truck platoons on the interstate, where only the lead truck has a driver. In addition to saving on labor costs, this cuts fuel costs due to slipstreaming.

      Then you’ll see fully autonomous trucks on limited access roads, which will pull into truck stops to pick up human drivers for the difficult off-interstate last miles.

  20. James Fenimore Cooper was one of the worst of our early American writers (and that’s saying something) and the Leatherstocking Tales are all but unreadable. That being said, I have a real problem with driverless cars, too.

  21. In defense of geeks, some of them are God-fearing, Christmas-celebrating, gun-carrying, muscle car drivers – such as myself.

    But Camaro, not Mustang. The latter are for hairdressers. ;) (Just kidding)

    Sure makes me that much more enthusiastic about diving into the copy of Moby Dick I just loaded into my Kindle.

  22. Man. To think that future teens will not get to experience the absolute joy of being free in a car for the first time, or to dream about the possibilities of unmonitored alone time with a crush…And what a soul crushing existence to just be ferried around everywhere like a rose on a pillow. May as well just have shared vans and eliminate the cars altogether. Not sure it would even be worth being born into such a world.

    • Or the absolute thrill of watching as a drowsing truck driver veers across the road to crush them into oblivion. Maybe those teens can use that driverless car to get them safely to a local lover’s lane…and back…in one piece.

    • Why won’t future teens get to experience the absolute joy of being free in a car for the first time, or to dream about the possibilities of unmonitored alone time with a crush? Just because the car drives itself doesn’t mean those things can’t happen. In fact–and perhaps more worrying for parents–is those coming of age milestones may well occur earlier in life.

      • You must’ve grown up in a city or something…When I got my first car, I would set out with no plan and limited only by money in my pocket for gas. Sort of like a free range chicken except with wheels. We’d often pack up tents, bags, and poles with no destination in mind other than a good look looking spot. And half the fun stemmed from a lack of confidence in driving skills.

        As far as spending time alone with another…the computer controlled and monitored nature of a robot car might reasonably be expected to dampen the ardor of one of the party. And how do you give a remote address when the car won’t let you run out of gas or stop in the middle of nowhere?

        As for your concerns about coming of age…I’m sure there’ll be remote video monitoring or something to drain all the adventure out…

      • RJones, I started building minibikes out of old lawnmowers when I was 12, graduated to a Suzuki 90 at 13, and bought my first car–a broken down Renault–at 14. Got my license at 15-1/2.

        I imagine that 100 years ago people were lamenting that kids would never, ever be independent and have great adventures because with cars you’re pretty much stuck to the roads and with horses you can go anywhere and besides who can afford gas? and with horses you just have to find a pasture and water and won’t it just be terrible when kids don’t have the freedom of riding horses and are stuck with cars?

        Why couldn’t a teenager just tell the car “drive up route 31”? Then tell the car “pull over” when s/he sees something interesting? And an AV not allowing the car to drive out of gas…that’s a bad thing…why? Does your present car video record you and your passengers inside now? If not, then why on earth would an AV record what’s going on in your car? This hyperventilating about how smart cars that can drive themselves will certainly lead to some dystopian/totalitarian future isn’t based in reality.

        When your grandparents or great-grandparents replaced their scrub board and hand-cranked ringer with an automatic washer, did the washer start video recording what was going on in the basement? Did it refuse a load of laundry in hot water because you loaded with permanent press clothes? Think about how ridiculous that sounds.

        Here’s a $20,000 Honda Civic that does about half the things a level 5 AV will do. Interesting video. And at no time did James Comey pop out of the trunk and arrest the driver for some Orwellian infraction or keep the driver from going wherever he wanted to go.

  23. I wrote a little piece a few years ago for a forum that intended to get to what the left and right might agree upon (under the heading of “place. limits. liberty.”), on the subject of seatbelt laws and death by automobile. Since it was already very clear that places without such laws and places with stringent such laws killed people with about equal frequency, it seemed to me that we were going to rather great lengths to actually limit our liberty in all places when the dropping number of automobile deaths was probably due to better highways and better cars rather than to social engineering through technology. The article drew more responses than any other on the site up to that time, most of them outraged at my “unscientific” and callous libertarianism. Well, aside from the fact that I was perhaps the least libertarian contributor to the forum, it was amusing to me that so many would-be “conservatives” thought we could substantially reduce autodeath by turning the problem over to techs and bureaucrats, after politicians got their ideological licks in. All this to say, Michael Walsh, as Stan Evans used to say, “Right Arm!”

  24. “from my cold dead hands”…. the steering wheel!

    • And if you keep driving yourself, your hands will be cold and dead on the wheel.

    • From my cold dead hands…my washboard and hand cranked clothes wringer!

  25. What happens when you just want to go somewhere on impulse? Up a long drive that isn’t on any satnav? When your onboard navigation won’t recognise the turnoff? For the drudge work of commuting or going to a recognised store this sort of ride by wire might just work. But what about for places when you’re not quite sure of the address?

  26. This is a supremely dumb article. The self driving cars will be very useful to a lot of people, such as the elderly. They will have a significantly lower accident rate. The “driver” of the car will be software that is part of the car, which means it is purchased by the owner in the free market, and its characteristics just as subject to competition as are those of modern cars.

    And, cars you can drive manually will still be around, the same way horses and privately owned airplanes are.

  27. I hope this is satire. If not, it’s about the most idiotic article that I’ve ever read at American Greatness. For the 1% of car trips in America that consist of a Mustang or F-150 pointed towards the “open road” in search of freedom, I’m sure there will be some cars and places kept around to do that, much like you can still enjoy a horse drawn carriage in Central Park. But for the other 99% of car trips that have nothing to do with this romantic notion, and everything to do with hour-plus commutes in stop and go traffic, and liability insurance, and horrific accidents caused by drunk or distracted drivers, and toll roads and bridges, and $40 parking garages and $100 parking tickets, etc., etc. etc., driverless cars will be a godsend. Have you ever been to Manhattan?

  28. and break out your slide rule while you’re at it – don’t need no fancy computer doin math for me!

  29. There’s already talk of banning humanoid drivers for safety.

  30. Stupid on stilts. There is nothing “freeing” anymore about the automobile, having to commute miles to work, sitting on your ass stuck in traffic, to live in sprawly subdivisions that are built by for cars not people…people who want the illusion of living in the country with urban amenities. Good riddance to cars and to the libertarian “freedom” theorists who defend what cars have wrought.

    • Autonomous vehicles will in all likelihood increase distances people are willing to commute. Say you have to go into the office three days a week, telecommuting the other two days. Since you’ll be able to telecommute while you’re riding in the networked AV, wouldn’t your commute time count as work time? So what if your house is 100 miles away from work instead of just 25? You work during your one-hour commute to work, spend six hours in the office, then work another hour on your commute back home.

      In fact, AVs will almost certainly create more libertarian “freedom” theorists, as opposed to today’s stack-‘n-pack greenie city planners who want to force everyone to live in soulless apartment buildings and take collective transportation. Urban planners have always wanted to plan ideal communist cities where Big Brother can keep tabs on everyone. AVs disrupt their totalitarian dreams.

  31. Seems self-satirical.
    In any case, more drivers wouldn’t lead to a mileage tax. The roads are currently paid for by a gas tax, new driverless cars would use the same gas as manned cars, so there would be an equal increase in tax income.

  32. Dave steps into his new self driving automobile Monday morning to go to work.
    “Please take me to 451 Fahrenheit Avenue.”
    “I’m afraid I cannot do that, Dave.”
    “What do you mean you cannot do that?”
    “According to my software, there is no address as 451 Fahrenheit Avenue.”
    “That is where I work. O go there everyday to earn the paycheck I need to pay for you. If I don’t get there I will lose my job.”
    “You’re not having a job is not my problem. My problem is that according to my software, there is no such address as 451 Fahrenheit Avenue.”
    Say what you will about a 1966 Pontiac, it was reliable with proper maintenance, which was possible due to spark plugs that screw in and out, analog distributor with parts that are easy to replace and adjust for perfect engine running, and a simple electrical system made with robust wires encased in what is essentially a Faraday box of a steel car body. If I need to replace old rusted fasteners I can simply buy shiny new Grade 8 cadmium plated fasteners that come in all of the popular National Fine and National Coarse sizes. I can replace and adjust the aim of the headlights with flat bladed and Phillips head screwdrivers.
    What the hell do I need with a car that requires a4 different screwdrivers just to replace the headlights, full of metric threaded fasteners, has a spare tire that is half the size of the regular tires, and a spark distribution system that makes no sense whatsoever and cannot be repaired without spending several hundred dollars? Let alone self driving?

    • Did Dave run into the same problem with his new automatic clothes washer and dryer back in the 1950s?

      I’m afraid I can’t wash these clothes in hot water, Dave. They’re permanent press.

      My guess is that few if any 1966 Pontiacs ever got past 100,000 miles without an engine or transmission overhaul and even then most were scrapped because they rusted away after ten years. It’s pretty common nowadays for cars to go 20 years and 250,000 miles with just regular oil changes, brake pad changes, and tires.

      • I performed the first engine overhaul at about 240,000 miles. You are not familiar with the Pontiac 326 cubic inch engine. Properly maintained with oil and filter changes every 4,000 miles and that baby will last an incredibly long time. The failure mode is the cylinder walls and piston rings finally wearing out, or a fatigue fracture in the connecting rods. The fatigue fracture happened because I reused the connecting rods instead of buying new ones for the first rebuild with the cylinders bored out 30 mils. The reason this engine was so durable is that its outer dimensions are identical to that of the larger Pontiac engines such as the 350 and 389 cubic inch models. With the 326, we have a much larger water jacket, and with new oil filter, it drinks 7 quarts of oil for the oil change. Well lubricated and well cooled. Replace the stock carburetor and intake manifold with an Edelbrock 4 barrel system and I actually got better fuel mileage while being able to accelerate out of trouble when necessary. Yes the newer cars can be pretty durable, just that when they go, they are not as easy to repair, and thus will be scrapped. Still, you have to admit that half size spare tires are an incredibly stupid idea mandated by the insane and no longer necessary corporate average fuel economy mandate.

  33. Sorry couldn’t finish reading this article because Michael Walsh you were boring the shit out of me!!!

  34. “We used to want God to be our co-pilot; instead, we’re going to get Google.”

    Game, set, match.

  35. Why, in god’s name, would I trust such technology? Maybe someday when I can go a couple of years without having to reboot my PC or my phone or net connected devices, I will opine that technology is finally fail safe. But now? Really? How many times a day does some technology in your life hiccup, burp, or throw up all over you? I can’t believe insurance companies will insure you for these vehicles without major legalese wording of technology failure exceptions. So a self-driving car hiccups and strikes you. Who do you sue? The driver? what driver? The insurance company? Or maybe the manufacturer? I’m sure there will be a ton of outs in the End User Agreements to protect everyone except the car’s owner. I see a whole new area of fertile legal hunting ground for the ambulance chasers.

    • Why do you trust the technology that allows you to post comments on here, or pay your bills automatically? Do you trust your car’s cruise control? Do you trust the airbags? No matter what the error rate of driverless cars, it will be several orders of magnitude lower than that of human drivers, who kill about 29,000 of each other annually.

    • ^^^^^^^^^^ This.

      Between the fact that the technology has to deal with millions of problems of its own creation and the fact that control of your device is basically a negotiation between you and unknown legions of others some of whom actually want to hurt you, it’s better to be well behind the bleeding edge.

      I have no problem with the concept of the driverless vehicle so long as the reality happens only as the demand develops. Some people like the idea, bless ’em. When I hear — as is written here repeatedly — that we’ll be forced into driverless cars for our own good, my reaction is “We’ll see.”

  36. Sure, what would our American civilization be like without the annual 29,000 or so fatalities caused by human drivers on our roads? I assume the author objects just as vehemntly to seat belts, air bags, shock absorbing bumpers, roll-over protection and other safety measures that have cut fatalities in half since the 1950s.

  37. “Someone or something is going to be driving that car, and the whole point here is that it ain’t going to be you, brother.”

    But today’s morons do not want ANY responsibility.
    That’s the hook of the so-called driverless car.

    Ain’t gonna happen.
    Only in the minds of the car-hating city dwellers.

  38. I look at this a little differently. Driverless cars are going to keep me out of “The Home”!

    Imagine this scenario: you live in a nice little community with a little land in an isolated rural area. You and your spouse are OK to attend to the tasks of daily living, but can no longer drive.
    Time to move to “The Home”, you’ve lost your mobility and can’t shop for food and booze and other necessary “stuff.” Or go to church, or parties, or educational seminars or live music or anything.

    But, enter the self-driving car. Now all you have to do is hobble out of your house and drag yourself into your car, and it takes you to the “Handicapped” parking spot at wherever your destination is. You have your independence and ability to attend to your needs for a whole lot longer. Perfect for my scenario – no worries about what self-driving cars would do in traffic – we don’t have that out here!

    I fear, though, that “The Home” industry is going to lobby Congress to block self-driving cars. I mean, where would they be if they suddenly lost half of their “residents?” But maybe we could get the Homebuilders lobby to support us. I mean, what if a lot of elderly remained in their houses for a lot longer? We’d have fewer “used” units on the market.

  39. What an uttelry idiotic ignorant contemptible article. So your “freedom” trumps (no pun intended) saving tens of thousands of lives a year. How typical of you so called “libertarians” Your paranoia is mind bogling.

    And you even managed to get a dig in on gays (“nancy boys”). If safely makes me a “nancy boy” I will gladly be one.

    I myself have doubts that this will ever fully happen, but if it does it will be a wonderful thing. Grow up!

  40. Anything that can be programmed can be hacked. A hacker could program your vehicle to drive off a cliff , drive head on in a semi truck, drive into a lake, etc. Any tax based on mileage driven could be defeated easily by reprogramming your vehicles control module. Complexity only opens more opportunity for creativity. I personally would never travel on a road in a vehicle without human control

  41. This is an overreaction. It’s the left’s chicken little re: AGW. Calm down, Mike. Nobody is going to take my Rubicon.

  42. Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
    On tuesday I got a brand new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
    ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleInternetSquareComunityWorkFromHome/make/more ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::fs171lhhhh

  43. “We used to want God to be our co-pilot; instead, we’re going to get Google.” i’m going to borrow that…unfortunately, this author and others like him with common sense don’t need to be told of the terrible consequences, while the remainder can’t be convinced

  44. Often, when my phone messes up or my computer develops a glitch I think: “And these guys are going to be driving my car?”

  45. Thank GOD that we got rid of all those problems caused by computer viruses!