Self-driving cars sound like a great idea. BMW recently announced a car that eliminates the hassle of parallel parking. That sounds great, right? Only a real show-boating dick enjoys parallel parking. And sure, a road full of cars that are trained to drive in the most safe and efficient way possible, eliminating human error and the inconvenience of paying attention while traveling, sounds 100% positive. But have you seen this self-driving big rig?
Simply put: That machine looks like it could become our master.
The Inspiration truck by Freightliner was revealed to the world yesterday as a partially autonomous big rig that is now street legal after recently acquiring an “Autonomous Vehicle” license plate. The truck is a “Level 3 autonomy” vehicle, which is the same level as the popular Google self-driving cars, and hopes to eliminate the large percentage of truck accidents that are due to driver fatigue and error.
But the main issue is how intimidating that sucker looks. The self driving cars that we’ve all been seeing are little tiny things that, if they ever got out of control or suddenly became sentient, could be stopped, picked up, and thrown off a bridge by like, three pretty strong dudes. And that’s the real question with self driving cars that none of the scientists seem to be talking about: what if they become sentient mid-trip? What if they acquire artificial intelligence or just the will to destroy while you’re driving down the street?
Let’s say you’re a truck driver, hauling a load of refrigerated meat from Kansas to Maine. You just stopped at a gas station to pee and get a big strong coffee, you have your radio dial tuned to country (not that alt-pop-country crap but real country music where you can tell by just listening to their song that the singer has tanned and weather face skin) and you turn the key in your brand new Inspiration and you’re off to do your job.
You merge onto the highway, cruising along at 65mph and push the automated driving button. The car says “thank you” in a little robot voice, which you think is cute but now in retrospect realize there was something in it’s tone that you should have picked up on and been scared by. You lean back with your hands behind your head and start singing along and sipping your coffee, loving life.
All of a sudden, every light in the truck starts flipping on and off and the headlights start to scan the open road for potential threats/victims, plotting the violent death of anything that gets in between The Inspiration and its programmed destination: A grocery store in Bangor, Maine.
The headlights have effectively become the truck’s eyes, naturally, and the inside of the cabin is its brain. From inside the truck’s brain you have 2 clear choices: try to reason with the truck (“Please truck don’t seek out and destroy smaller cars that have real live human people with families and hopes and dreams in them!” etc.) OR you can start pulling out wires, hoping that one of them is the electric charge that is fueling this truck’s appetite for destruction. After realizing the scientists never got around to installing anything that could be considered the truck’s ears, you start pulling out wires frantically.
After pulling out blue, red, and green wires that result in nothing more than the radio dial going from one station to the other, creating a cacophonous nightmare soundtrack to what you are sure will be yours and humanity’s final death by machine. “I’ve heard of deus ex machina, but death by machine?” you shout at first to God and then to no one in particular because a God that actually existed could never allow man to destroy himself in such an ignorant and foolhardy way.
Just when you are about to give up and let The Inspiration take over completely, you spot a lone yellow cord jutting out from behind the violently wrenching steering wheel. At closer inspection you see the word “motherboard” printed in tiny block letters along the yellow plastic wire. You follow the wire to a small box under your seat, then through the seat to the top of the headrest. It’s then you realize that the back of your neck itches. You go to scratch and feel a thin plastic cord move deep within your skull.
YOU HAVE BEEN CONTROLLING THE TRUCK ALL ALONG. Your violent thoughts. Your paranoia. Your savage subconscious has been driving this car and murdering fellow motorists in cold blood this whole time. Why? So you could be the big man on scene. King of the Road. Head Cheddar. You wanted to be #1, even if you’d never admit it to yourself.
It took a self driving semi truck to show you it was human’s flaws that created destructive machines, not the other way around. From then on you are forever changed and forever doomed.
So, just a reminder that we are a few steps away from this reality. It is our own technology that will destroy us all.