Have you ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?
An example could be when something presented as ostensibly neat – like cars that drive themselves – turn out to have unforeseen results –such as your kids or grandkids one day being forbidden to drive for their own safety.
And, validating the worst future fear of car enthusiasts and others who’ve already said as much, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has come out saying said unintended consequences may indeed happen.
“In the distant future, I think people may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous,” Musk said at a conference held by tech company Nvidia. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.”
Now an automobile has been called fun, fast, potentially dangerous, but in a certain context, Musk has just called it a “death machine.” Or rather, it may be viewed that way more starkly in the distant future.
Is that ironic? Many people have embraced the novel idea of cars that drive themselves as liberating, but could these machines ultimately mean the erosion of freedoms now enjoyed –– the right to drive and control your own car?
Musk later said on Twitter he obviously does not want people to be outlawed from driving their own cars.
“To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be,” he said. “Hopefully, that is obvious.”
Tesla meanwhile forges ahead with Autopilot alongside other major automakers and third-party suppliers also at work on technologies that can partially or fully take over.
In favor of autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies is these at the most noble potential end of the benefit spectrum could be a huge relief for the aged and infirm.
As a mere convenience and safety measure, autonomous cars could also include allowing for less attentiveness at the wheel and mitigate today’s “epidemic” of distracted driving.
And at the least noble, but not unthought-of end of the scale, questions have been pondered as to whether it would be legal for a future autonomous car to transport an intoxicated driver without so much as a whisper of being busted for DUI.
To be sure, humans have tended to create machines to set them free, but as futurists and conspiracy theorists might remind you, you may want to be careful what you wish for.
These thoughts have been variously uttered before, and often they’ve been met with dismissive counter arguments. But now Elon Musk said so too, so does that lend credibility to the fear that something may turn out to be not be all it was presented to be at first?
Already today we have airplanes that fly themselves so military pilots whose training can toll into the millions may be spared.
And research shows human error is a main cause of many automobile crashes. So, what if they develop vehicles that never get sleepy, never stray from being vigilant, don’t text at the wheel, and begin to do much better than humans?
If one day the safety record of autonomous cars proves so superior to human operators, it’s been speculated that powers that be – such as the insurance lobby and government – may make a case to begin eroding or eliminating driving privileges.
That is one possibility, or maybe there’s nothing to worry about?