Editor’s Note: In this week’s Rant, Peter addresses the coming slippery slope of the AI imperative that’s threatening to swallow the automobile business whole. In On The Table, Honda previews what could very well be the Ultimate Costco Pallet, and the Dodge Last Call by Roadkill Nights Vegas event is coming up soon, or as we refer to it – “The Last Gasp For Everything” event. And given Peter’s Rant topic, we thought it would be fun to enjoy the disco classic “I Love The Nightlife” from Alicia Bridges in our AE Song of the Week. In Fumes, Peter continues with Part VII of his popular new series “The Great Races” – with a look back at the 1966 Bridgehampton Can-Am with an all-star cast of driving talent. And finally, in The Line, we feature coverage of the F1 Bahrain GP, the INDYCAR opener from St. Petersburg and NASCAR from Las Vegas. Onward. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. Now that the Ford Motor Company has filed a patent application for dealing with owners who are late making payments on their vehicles by remotely disabling features – or, creating annoying sounds to get the scofflaw owners’ attention – even so far as eventually having the car be able to drive away on its own to an impound lot, we have officially entered The Era of Bad Ideas. 
We all knew this was coming eventually. After all, with legions of technologistas overwhelming the transportation sector, and with their Savior-in-Chief – St. Elon – advocating for eliminating the physical act of driving altogether in favor of embracing remotely guided vehicles careening around to parts unknown and unloved, somehow everything is supposed to be better off because of it, right? 
Well, kids, guess what? We’re not only entering the sunset years of one of the last tangible independent exercises that humans can do, but there’s a growing faction out there that wants to remove the privilege from the collective “us” altogether, for “our own good.” Or, even worse, what some not-so-well-intentioned others deem as being for our own good. 
In those quaint, ancient times so long ago and far away now, the “anti-car” movement used to be about removing urban congestion and reducing pollution, with some other noble hand-holding goals thrown in for good measure. Now, with the blistering-fast advancement of AI, the “anti-car” movement has transitioned to the “anti-driving” movement, a crusade operating on the fundamental belief that the sooner human factors are removed from behind the wheel, the better off we’ll all be. Because, well, you know, it just will be, according to the anti-driving crusaders.
Yes, we’ve watched as the science of robotics has made lots of tedious tasks easier over the decades –everything from manufacturing to countless other repetitive jobs – and we’ve all grown to accept it because it has made a (mostly) positive difference throughout society. But the idea that the personal interaction with controlling a machine – aka cars and trucks – needs to be curtailed or eliminated in favor of glorified rolling robo-conveyances is anathema to the human experience.
I’ve been scolded by readers suggesting that I’m taking too narrow of a view on all of this, that I’m forgetting the advantages The Future will provide in terms of mobility for the elderly and otherwise infirm. No, actually I’m not. Yes, of course I am aware that there could be practical applications of this robotic technology for certain groups of people, and that is all well and good and could be exceedingly helpful to their quality of life. But you know and I know that this isn’t how this will go down. When any idea – good or bad – is applied to the general population “for their own good” in our current society, that inevitably means that the technology or idea will be applied en masse to the lowest common denominator. As in, it will inevitably have to be “dumbed-down” in order for it to have the greatest effect across a broad spectrum of people.
In The Future, would you want your elderly parents to be able to function on their own to a degree without having to be confined somewhere? Sure, of course, that would be helpful and beneficial to all concerned. And under limited circumstances in an urban environment that kind of robo-mobility should be able to work out just fine, for the most part – at least one would hope.
But, let’s say you want to take your family to the Badlands National Park one summer in The Future, with a few unplanned stops along the way? And what if, in order for all of this to work, and in keeping with the idea of applying technology across a broad spectrum of the populace – to the lowest common denominator, in other words – the nanny technologistas in the government went ahead and created the National Bureau of Electronic Movement (NBEM), a clearinghouse of sorts to monitor the burgeoning transportation needs of the collective “us.” And let’s say that in order to plan that sort of a family vacation, you would first have to apply to the NBEM, plotting out your trip to the smallest detail, leaving no charge, food, bathroom or snack stop left out.
Sounds delightful, right? No? I’ve gone too far – off the deep end, in fact – and I’m projecting a societal development that will never happen? Don’t be so sure. The rapid development of AI is swallowing everything having to do with our life as we know it whole. The indiscriminate onslaught of AI, which is often portrayed as something akin to a benign force for good, is incredibly naïve and flat-out wrong. With each “next step” AI development that promises to get us closer to a societal nirvana where things are no longer bad, or hurtful, or negative, or challenging, I cringe, because we are getting one step closer to having our basic freedoms compromised or removed altogether as being irrelevant compared to the “greater good.”
You can laugh now, but I don’t find it funny in the least. Robot-motoring is not something I aspire to. And it’s not something you should aspire to, either. And the concept of AI car repossessions may bring a laugh now, as in, sure, but make no mistake, this is just one more step along the way to the driving equivalent of a vanilla shake with a shot of mediocrity.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG

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