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The Good News About Automated Cars

• By Eric Peters Eric Peters Autos

Automated cars are being pushed on us harder than crystal meth in a West Virginia trailer park – by a tag team of the government apparat (which salivates at the prospect of heightened control over our movements) and a car industry which is becoming indistinguishable from the government, except that it wants to profit from all this controlling.

Automated cars are complex cars and that means expensive cars. It also means ride-sharing/renting of cars (perpetual payments) rather than owning them, which the car industry sees as a new "growth opportunity" for its business. Much more money in that than selling people $15,000 Corollas driven by them.

The good news – if you prefer not to be controlled – is that automated cars are still a long way off. They will probably not be able to force us into them for another several decades and maybe – with any luck – never.

So, breathe easy.

Yes, it's true that elements of automated car technology are already on the road. Many new cars can park themselves, partially steer themselves and stop (and accelerate) themselves. But only some of the time, under certain conditions and with the ironic proviso that the driver must always be ready to step in.

In which case, what is the point of this automated car technology? Either the technology is competent enough to drive the car all the time or the driver must be competent to drive and ready to drive all the time.

Otherwise, it's like sugar that isn't sweet.

If the driver must be competent and ready to drive all the time, then the automated technology is essentially useless. Worse than useless, actually. Because it promotes incompetent, inattentive driving – as witness the recent several crashes of auto-piloted cars, which either ran into things or ran people over because the person behind the wheel – we won't call him a driver – was not driving.

But in such a case, who is responsible for the crash? Is it the automated car – or the person behind the wheel?

Who will pay?

The liability problems are probably more of an obstacle to automated cars ever being more than a technocratic wet dream than the technology problems. In a fully automated car scenario, the car's occupants – no more drivers, in expectation or otherwise – cannot be faulted for what the car does. Or what it doesn't do. If it runs into a concrete barrier – or fails to not run over a child by swerving off the road and into a barrier instead – who gets the ticket?

Who gets sued?

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