Hey IBC members!
Hope everyone is well and warm…and with a good book not far from reach.
I wanted to update you on an array of exciting things going on. I could have just said “a lot of exciting things,” but these things are so exciting that they warranted array.
First off, I will be releasing the cover of Blaze the Grid on social media tomorrow. This is the second book in the Gridlocked sci-fi technothriller trilogy, and both books will be available over the summer. The books focus on autonomous vehicles – and the intensifying debate over how much control we are willing to concede to technology.
It all started with individual autonomous features to enhance safety, and then we heard about the Google self-driving car. It seems now that every commercial is promoting driverless this and autonomous that, but the creators of all things autonomous seem to be missing a pretty major question: what good are driverless features/cars on roads dominated by drunk and distracted drivers?
So let’s take a moment and pretend we’re in our autonomous cars. It’s 2020, and we’re blissfully cruising down the road, letting the car do all the work while we nap/catch up on work/enjoy a fine dining experience….I can think of a few other fine experiences to enjoy as well…but anyway, we’re in our driverless happy place, resting and relaxing, when a distracted driver plows through a red light because he couldn’t resist the ding of the text (a modern version of the Sirens).
Now I know these driverless cars are getting pretty smart, but last time I refreshed the pages updated by the autonomous gurus, these cars 1) will not have ESP and 2) will not be able to alter physics. That established, assuming our driverless car is easing through the intersection at 30 MPH, there’s not much it can do to avoid someone who fails to brake and blasts through the intersection. Okay, devil’s advocate, maybe our car’s lidar/radar/cameras pick up on the dangerous perpendicular speed coming at us. Maybe it detects the failure of Distracted Dave to even decelerate in the slightest and commences an evasion move. But, what if our car is blocked by a suddenly stopped vehicle in front of us, giving us nowhere to evade?
So at last the premise of the grid arrives – a system in which driverless technologies have ascended from luxury to law. If everyone complies with driverless, then we can all be plugged into the same network (think of an aircraft control system multiplied by a million, with every destination entered into the system before you leave). Then you’re sequenced into the overall “GRID”.
If everyone forfeits the freedom to drive, then we are all safer for it…or so the experts say. Even if the occasional noncompliant “grid dodger” kills someone, the system will be far superior to our current disaster, with traffic deaths going up exponentially because people simply cannot bring themselves to ex the text behind the wheel.
But when considering forfeiting freedoms, there is always a deeper conversation to be had. What if the technology fails? What if it gets hacked? In my book, after the grid inexplicably shuts down one night, travelers are forced to grapple with what they initially assume is a glitch.
And suddenly it’s chaos.
Something to think about as we continue to reach a critical inevitability – the day lawmakers contemplate whether everyone should go driverless. The Autonomous Vehicles Act in my book is no longer as remote a possibility as it once seemed to me. Texting isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the drunks whose third, fourth, tenth offenses I record each week in my police logs for the newspaper. How’s this for horror – the courts don’t care about seriously punishing these people until they kill someone. Suspended/revoked license, oh right – about as effective as a restraining order. And with the opioid crisis suffocating the courts, trust me, they just want the vehicular nuisances out of their hair unless it’s fatal or the victim is bringing a big-name attorney into the ring.
But is the complete antithesis any better for us – the idea of no one driving, the machines charged with getting us there in one piece because we’ve become so inept/careless that we can’t do it for ourselves?
Fascinating times await, IBC members, and I hope you’ll all enjoy the GRID trilogy. I honestly don’t know what the best answer is and look forward to hearing your thoughts!