In recent news, folks in Arizona have been attacking self-driving cars, doing things from slashing tires at stop lights to outright smashing of windows and other similar actions.
It seems as though it’s from a Frankenstein novel: the primitive and ignorant villagers are restless, carrying pitchforks, guns and baseball bats, roaming the streets of Chandler, Arizona seeking out self-driving cars to destroy. And at first you wouldn’t be too far off: a seeming luddite fetish becoming reality.
But on close examination, this isn’t about so much a bunch of whacked out crazies acting out on a mob instinct, but a sincere questioning of privacy and control. Turns out that as part of testing and development, the driverless cars go about driving around Chandler with no specific destination, stopping and parking in front of residential properties – sitting, waiting and then driving again (side note: part of their development, the cars usually have a back up human who’s working with the vehicle to insure driving safety, so there is an issue and concern about the drivers in those cars being harmed).
And BTW: as part of this effort, each car has a camera, taking random pictures as they go about.
The company in question is Waymo, a subsidiary of Google (Alphabet) and folks in Chandler, Arizona do not dig any of this:
From the New York Times:
“In ways large and small, the city has had an early look at public misgivings over the rise of artificial intelligence, with city officials hearing complaints about everything from safety to possible job losses.
Some people have pelted Waymo vans with rocks, according to police reports. Others have repeatedly tried to run the vehicles off the road. One woman screamed at one of the vans, telling it to get out of her suburban neighborhood. A man pulled up alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the employee riding inside with a piece of PVC pipe.
In one of the more harrowing episodes, a man waved a .22-caliber revolver at a Waymo vehicle and the emergency backup driver at the wheel. He told the police that he “despises” driverless cars, referencing the killing of a female pedestrian in March in nearby Tempe by a self-driving Uber car.
“There are other places they can test,” said Erik O’Polka, 37, who was issued a warning by the police in November after multiple reports that his Jeep Wrangler had tried to run Waymo vans off the road — in one case, driving head-on toward one of the self-driving vehicles until it was forced to come to an abrupt stop.”
The citizens of Chandler, Arizona raised concerns about safety of these driverless cars going about residential neighborhoods with children playing or driving down the major streets.
It also turns out that Waymo didn’t bother to get approval from the town to go about and conduct their testing.
What’s taking place in Chandler, Arizona is all part of bigger points worth mentioning.
Recalling an earlier article, “Driving / Riding Will Soon Be a Privilege” (https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/driving-riding-will-soon-be-a-privilege) self-driving cars are coming along rather quickly and very likely, the children now within the age range of 1 to 8 years old may very well be the last generation that will be trained in car driving. But recalling this same article, it’s also very possible that being afforded to have access to a car will, more and more, be a privilege rather than just something we take for granted (for more on this, read the earlier posting referenced above on this subject) owing to credit rating and social standing as well as geographical locales.
Ask yourself this: you think private companies are going to readily allow self-driving cars to operate in neighborhoods considered ‘high-risk’?
Additionally, knowing where you are and where you’ve been going is the next realm of privacy that we are all losing. Considering Waymo is owned by Alphabet / Google, a self-driving vehicle cannot help but monitor your movements otherwise it won’t function (here’s an article which I’d written for ASIS – American Society for Information Sciences – back in the days when the concern for location identification of this was just mere science fiction: http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Feb-97/lutz.html).
Things have certainly changed since then.
Shades of ‘Vanishing Point’; another portion of the American Dream may soon disappear: the ability to drive your own car in the confidence that you are in control and that your location is not readily known.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of time that privately owned human driven cars will be outlawed.
When cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have cars.