There are times when you take a step back and realize just how clueless Silicon Valley is about the way the real world works. This may sound a little strange since Silicon Valley is deeply involved with making the modern world work in the ways that it does, but it’s nonetheless common to see that some of the tech industry’s brightest people have no understanding of normal people’s behaviors or desires. It’s this kind of oblivious delusion that made Sergey Brin think Google Glass would be a sensation with consumers, for example.
All of this is a roundabout way to introduce you to a TechCrunch column written by serial entrepreneur Jay Samit, who actually argues that the American government will make it illegal for you to drive your own car by 2030.
Think I’m making this up? Well, behold.
“Driving a car will be illegal by 2030,” he states right off the bat in his column. “Driving should and will be made illegal because we now have the technology to prevent deadly traffic accidents; one of the greatest causes of premature deaths around the globe.”
From a purely logical perspective perspective, Samit’s column has a decent amount of merit to it: He rightly notes that early tests have shown self-driving cars are much safer to use than cars driven by humans. He explains that this technology isn’t a far-away sci-fi concept but is something that is just over a decade or so away from being ready for the mass market. And he convincingly makes the case that self-driving cars will put jobs of taxi drivers and truck drivers at risk once companies realize they can save time and money by having autonomous cars do the work that humans do now.
Where he falls down, however, is his idea that the American government will actually make it illegal for all American citizens to drive their own cars.
Look, it doesn’t matter how many studies you quote about improved safety — Americans are not giving up their cars. I mean, we can’t even prevent people with long documented histories of violent schizophrenia from buying semi-automatic weapons in this country, and Samit actually believes it will be politically feasible to get Americans to accept a ban on all human driving?
What is he smoking.
Tellingly, Samit never mentions the political challenges inherent in his proposal and only says that “we should all work on making human driving illegal by 2030 — as if our lives depended on it.”
Yeah, good luck with that. Let’s imagine how this sort of thing will actually play out when Samit goes on to debate Sean Hannity about his idea in 10 years’ time.
Hannity: So, Mr. Samit, can you explain why you’re assaulting one of the most basic freedoms Americans have enjoyed for decades now?
Samit: Last year, more than 275,000 Chinese, 238,000 Indians and 33,000 Americans died in preventable traffic accidents.
Hannity: Whoa, whoa. We’re not talking about your made-up numbers here, we’re talking basic liberties. What you’re proposing is to take away everyone’s freedom to own and operate their own car all because you think you know best.
Samit: Google’s autonomous vehicles have now logged more than one million miles on roads dominated by human-driven cars. Subjected to the same real-world road conditions as us mere mortals, self-driving cars have been through rain, sleet and snow. Autonomous vehicles have driven the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 40 times — without incident.
Hannity: So you’re saying we should just trust the robots to drive us. Robots that are programmed by Google — the same company that celebrates avowed Marxists on its webpage?
Samit: Autonomous vehicles don’t drive drunk, don’t drive distracted and don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Self-driving cars are wired with cameras, infrared sensors, networked maps and a host of other software, which empowers them to accurately avoid dangers in ways humans can’t.
Hannity: So you don’t trust Americans to drive themselves because you think they’re all drunks? Do you know how insulting that is to every God-fearing man and woman in the Heartland? You basically don’t trust the average American to behave responsibly so you have to take away their basic fundamental rights. All because you and your robots supposedly know best.
You get the idea.
I’m not against self-driving cars, mind you — in fact, I think they have a lot of potential to make our roads safer. But the idea that Americans will happily give up the power to drive their own cars at any time in the near future is a total delusion that only someone deeply mired within the Silicon Valley bubble could believe.