"I'm sorry, Robbo, I can't take you to softball practice today.  However, the IRS would like to have a word with you.  We'll go there...."

“I’m sorry, Robbo, I can’t take you to softball practice today. However, the IRS would like to have a word with you. We’ll go there….”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, during our traditional Sunday afternoon telephonic chin-wag, teh Mothe and I somehow got on the topic of cars and automotive technology.   (Our chats tend to flit, butterfly-like, from topic to topic.)  The conversation was not so much about what you might call actual automobile mechanics, of which I have only a very superficial knowledge, but rayther, about certain trends in what marketing flacks might call “driving experience enhancements” that send a positive chill down ol’ Robbo’s spine.

Three of these trends, in no particular order of merit, come especially to mind.

One can be described generally as  Nav/Sat.  By this I mean GPS and on-board navigation and “concierge” communications  technology that is marketed as an aid to greatly ease your ability to get from Point A to Point B, even if you don’t quite yet know what or where Point B actually is.

The next goes under the general category of Safety-Enhancement.  For example, there was a nooz article within the past week or so to the effect that the gub’mint was going to start pushing various car-to-car communications gadgets designed to, for instance, detect potential collisions and take evasive action before they ever actually happen.

The third is the whole “driverless” car movement, promising fully automated electronic pilots linked into the Matrix system, that will waft their passengers with maximum efficiency and ease to their desired destinations.

(Oh, and as a bonus, don’t even get me started about the idea of mandatory “black boxes”.)

Despite the “Gee, Whiz! Ain’t technology wonderful?” happy-talk that often accompanies stories and ad copy about these things, as I say, they give me the creeps.

You see, sometimes when I’m tooling along, I look about me at the other cars on teh road and I find myself marveling. The passenger automobile is perhaps one of the single greatest examples of individual autonomy in action out there.  Not only are I and my fellow drivers successfully piloting several tons of metal at high rates of speed in compliance with a fairly simple set of  rules and regulations, I can get in my car and go anywhere I want, any time I want and without anybody’s knowledge or consent.

The technologies mentioned above change all that.  If my dashboard GPS monitor knows where I am, then so does somebody else.  Cross-link it with automated tollbooth systems, for example, and suddenly so do a whole lot of other people.   Similarly, if my car is “thinking” for itself, either in part or in whole, and acting on such thought, then I, as the driver, am deprived of a corresponding amount of personal autonomy.

Now, here is where I put the tinfoil lining in my hat.  These various gadgets are sold to us on the grounds of safety and convenience and efficiency and the like.  And that they could contribute to such ends certainly is arguable.  But I believe there’s more to it than that and that those pressing hardest for the widespread adoption of such technology are not interested so much in people’s well-being as they are in control, in reining in that autonomy for the greater good of the collective.  (Said “greater good” of course being determined by an elite group of experts.)

And aside from the political aspect, there is also of course the matter of mechanical breakdown.  Damme if I want to be in a car that, because the wires get crossed, suddenly believes it needs to charge head-long into a brick wall at 90 m.p.h. in order to avoid a phantom threat vector.

To this end, I will never set foot in a “driverless” car.

I will avoid “car-to-car communications” devices to the extent possible.

I will never allow the friendly and courteous “On-Star” faceless voice advise me which hotel/restaurant/gas station to visit.

If I begin to feel that my EZ-Pass makes me too much of a sitting duck, I will toss the thing out the window and run the tollbooths with masked license plates, letting the chips fall where they may.

So, anyway, that’s what I think.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go.  Something’s making a strange noise in the garage…….