I’m ready to let some higher authority take over my car when I’m on the highway. Actually I want all cars to be under some central command system. For decades I’ve read about experiments that use a cable buried under the pavement to control vehicles traveling the roadway. Whatever works, I say let’s give it a try. I didn’t always feel this way but I’ve been worn down by too many close encounters with motoring miscreants.
The latest incident happened recently as I was heading out of downtown Portland on the Sunset Highway about 9 A.M. As I entered the tunnel my car was in the far left lane and traffic was fairly heavy. I was trying to stay about three or four car lengths behind the vehicle in front of me. This is a basic rule that every kid hears in driver education class. Unfortunately it seems to be widely disregarded once a license is obtained.
On the way out of the tunnel I heard someone honk and thought, “Are you KIDDING?” A glance in the rearview mirror showed the car behind me almost touching my back bumper. Only one headlight, on the left side, was illuminated. The right headlight wasn’t working because it was smashed and broken and part of the hood was dented. So I was being tailgated by someone in a car that had damage from a previous collision, and that driver was honking to make me speed up and tailgate the car ahead of me.
As we headed uphill toward the zoo I saw the honker suddenly move into the middle lane, then continue over into the slow lane, where it accelerated for a short stretch and then cut back into the middle lane. It gained about 75 feet from all that activity.
In my mind, a scenario unfolded that brought swift consequences to that other driver. Because I’m a science fiction fan, my imaginary response came in the form of a massive, all-seeing all-knowing computer that instantly pinpoints motoring miscreants and takes control of their vehicles, which are safely steered to a safe stopping area. The offending drivers are then subjected to a whitering lecture issued through the car radio. Think of ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ combined with ‘Eagle Eye.’
I feel like the technology for this scenario must already exist. Microchips that record data and send out radio signals could surely be modified to take over operation of a motor vehicle when a specific order is issued by a remote source.
The main problem with this idea is that a lot of offenders would just ignore the warning and immediately revert back to their reckless habits. Authority figures, human or robotic, don’t seem to intimidate them. Also, as all science fiction fans know, most super-intelligent computers inevitably go haywire and try to take over the world. Best not to pursue this scenario beyond the wishful thinking stage.
Maybe the cable in the pavement is the answer. I’m ready for anything that will bring order to the daily traffic flow and keep the cannonball runners in line, moving at the same speed as everybody else. Oh, and I also want someone to invent a device I can point at anyone who gratuitously honks at me and deactivate their horn permanently.