Road Rage (google style)

I hate driving. I’m not bad at it – notwithstanding an unfortunate incident last month concerning a Budget rent a truck and a parked car (yes, I did leave a note). I just kind of dislike it in a very hateful sort of way.

The only form of transportation that I hate more than driving is everything else. Just so we’re clear, by ‘everything else’ I mean public transporation – not walking and running, which I actually find enjoyable. Especially when I don’t have to walk or run somewhere in particular.

If you’re a geek, the order of operations is: walking > running > A huge zit on the tip of your nose > driving > flying > train > subway > slow painful death > bus.

Got it?

Getting off topic, I wonder why there aren’t any verbs for specifically riding a train, subway, or bus. You can walk, run, drive, or fly, but you can’t train, subway, or bus anywhere. I guess these non-verb forms of getting somewhere just don’t deserve a verb.

Back on topic – driving stresses me out and makes me unhappy. I’ll try and explain. Imagine that you are basically a goal oriented person. Whatever you are doing at any particular moment is the most important thing in the world – and you just want to complete it. Unless you are an asshole in a Beemer who thinks that driving is the goal in and of itself (marketing crap), when you enter a car the goal is to get from where you are to where you want to go. Point A to Point B. But then the whole fucking world turns on you. Everything wants to impede upon your progress. The traffic lights. Stop signs. Road work. Pedestrians. In particular, the other drivers. They are all conspiring to get in your way and take away precious minutes from your life that you could have spent watching South Park or something.

Now the funny thing is, I’m not super goal oriented. But once I get in a car, I become that person. And I get aggressive and angry. Generally mild mannered, in a car I’m yelling at other drivers, honking my horn, waving fists. I’m not proud of it, but I really am that person. I weave around the slow fuckers who get in my way. If I’m cruising in the left lane and some asshole decides to change lanes in front of me and slow down – I show no mercy whatsoever. I’ll ride his ass for a mile and then I’ll swoop next to him and kind of edge into his lane like I’m going to swipe him.. and maybe I’ll even get in front of him and hit the brakes erratically. My thought process is that the guy who did it needs a lesson.

Yeah, it really is bad. Again, not proud of this.

And yet I deal with it, because what’s worse than driving? Feeling like cattle being delivered to the slaughterhouse in a train, subway, or bus. Public transportation doesn’t make me angry. Just profoundly sad.

So I was excited to read this article. Google has a functioning car that drives itself. They basically took the most cliched aspect of the past 60 years of science fiction – and removed the fiction from it.

I’m excited… I really am. For the geeks: Google > God. First off, all that time waiting for the traffic to move. It becomes YOUR time again. You could write emails.. read a book, watch porn. Whatever the hell you want. I guess I could do pretty much all of that on a train – but then I would be on a train. This is SO much better.

But being kind of a techno geek myself, I’m also really excited about the AI aspects of it. According to the article:

The car can be programmed for different driving personalities — from cautious, in which it is more likely to yield to another car, to aggressive, where it is more likely to go first.

That is awesome. I could actually program my car to be as big a prick on the road as -I- am. Really, it’s a pretty damn funny future we might have. Millions of commuters, watching the latest skin flick in their private little car cabin, basically oblivious to the drama going on around them as their AI cars fight for supremacy of the road. While of course the chance of an accident becomes almost nil because Google cars are all knowing and unfailing. Omnipotent, like Google itself.

But here’s a thought. Say you have a congested highway and everyone is doing 15 mph. Theoretically, if every car from the front to the end simultaneously accelerated to 60mph.. there shouldn’t be any reason why an accident would ensue. Congestion is basically caused by cautiousness. You want a certain amount of space in front of you. You break because someone else is breaking, or you anticipate some guy changing lanes in front of you whatever. All down the line those human interactions serve to cause a traffic jam. But figure if every car was controlled by a computer, theoretically there is no reason why a congestion based traffic jam should ever occur. Cars could whiz by at 80 mph, with about half a foot clearance between vehicles. Each car knowing what each other car on the grid would do.

So that’s really the big benefit of computer driven vehicles. It should actually make traffic a thing of the past. BUT – this all assumes that every car knows what every other car is going to do. If Google allows you to personalize your vehicle’s driving style.. my assumption is that it would completely mess everything up. Each car, aggressive or cautious, would now, like us, be driving in a cloud of uncertainty. Is the Passat in front of me going to slow down or weave in front of the guy to his left? Inherently, it would create a need for a certain amount of caution. And traffic jams.

Really, why the hell do we want to infect our computers with the human condition?

I suppose that if there was a central processor controlling everything then the cautious car would know what the aggressive car was going to do, so my utopian highway theory might work. But then what’s the point of programming your car to be cautious? It’s like basically saying I’d rather get from Point A to Point B just as safely as everyone else, but significantly less efficiently.

Lots of questions. All I know is that I’m sure Google has all the answers.

Very truly yours,

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