Why driverless cars will be the next battlefield in the culture war

Investors and companies globally have sunk nearly $100 billion into developing self-driving vehicles over the past few years. And with good reason: Self-driving cars are real, they’re going to be spectacular, and they’re going to happen a lot sooner than you think.

Just last week, Waymo, the driverless car subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, announced it would begin a robo-taxi service in Phoenix. The city has been a hotbed of autonomous vehicle testing due to its regulatory friendliness and predictably pleasant weather.

Of course this doesn’t mean highways will soon be filled with swarming packs of autonomous vehicles zooming along at 80 miles per hour, just inches from each other’s bumper. It’s one thing to be able to purchase a fully autonomous car (maybe within a few years) that works in certain places under certain conditions; it’s quite another for many or most cars on the road to be driverless (maybe a few decades) anywhere, anytime. One recent gone-viral prediction comes from Bob Lutz, a former top executive and design guru at General Motors. In an essay for Automotive News, Lutz wrote that “in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.”

And that forecast, whatever its accuracy, may have inadvertently predicted the next great battleground of America’s culture wars.

Some social media users were thrilled by Lutz’s prediction, commenting on the technology’s potential safety aspects and how it could make commuting easier. But plenty of others were horrified at the prospect. Lots of “… from my cold, dead hands” tweets, for instance, a reference to the well-known National Rifle Association slogan. For these people, such knee-jerk opposition to driverless cars is all about maintaining personal autonomy and withstanding yet another elite assault on their lifestyle.

So you can see how this is going to play out, right? Just wait until Fox & Friends notices this issue, which means it will immediately land on President Trump’s radar. And then the tweets will begin. Maybe something like: “First guns, now the elites want to rip the steering wheel from your hands! Banning human drivers is wacko! I WON’T LET THEM!”

Of course it’s unlikely this issue will become legislatively relevant during Trump’s presidency. But that might not stop the Trumpopulists from trying to preemptively turn it into a wedge issue, one potentially even more powerful than gun control given the mythopoetic place …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics

      

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