Ready For Another Brother: Big Car?

Posted on December 3, 2015 by - Also by this author

I sense something about the breathless, pounding media coverage of driverless cars that just sounds too good, too simple, and too inevitable, to be completely true. I don’t doubt the technological wizardry and potential of autonomous vehicles. But trouble signs are emerging about how driverless vehicles would be accepted and adapted.

My red flag rose, alarm buzzed, and eyes popped all at once this week when I read a Nov. 29 article in the Los Angeles Times, “Driverless vehicles and the future of L.A. transportation.” The article is a Q&A with Gabe Klein, an author, futurist, government consultant, former head of Chicago and Washington, D.C. transportation departments, and the former vice president of Zipcar. He is now with the venture capital firm of Fontinalis Partners, which he co-founded with William C. Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford and executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

With credentials like that, I don’t doubt his expertise on self-driving vehicles, ground transportation, and urban dynamics. However, an excerpt from his Q&A on how driverless cars will evolve warrants some concern and skepticism about the motives and policies behind this budding tech revolution.

Q: How do you get enough people to change their habits?

Klein: By increasing the cost and inconvenience of owning and operating a car. You can raise parking fees and reduce or eliminate street and off-street parking. You can charge higher vehicle registration fees and higher sales taxes for cars. Copenhagen, for example, has a 180% tax on new vehicle sales, and there is a proposal to ban cars from downtown Oslo. Laws also could be passed to limit the number of cars people can own.

Those measures must be combined with expanded transit systems and more compact development that bring homes, workplaces, shopping areas and recreational opportunities closer together. We have the potential to reinvent the way cities feel. Then they will become more viable as cities.

Whoa, if you’re an instinctive liberty lover and capitalist sympathizer like me, your alarm systems should be going off, too. Such comments betray once again a mentality we’ve seen all too often in Big Business, Big Government, Big Labor, Big Greens, and Big Hollywood: We know what’s better for you. So you’re going to do it, and you’re going to like it, regardless of costs and troubles.

Self-driving vehicles, whatever their merits and opinions about them, should never be forced onto the American public. The driverless technology should succeed on its own merits. The public should want it so bad that people will beat down the road to get a driverless car, just like they do for iPhones, iPads, Droids, big screen TVs, Star Wars tickets, or anything else the consuming public finds desirable.

I find it disturbing that our Big Government could potentially make the operation of what I call “independently driven vehicles” (that’s all of us drivers) so expensive as to force us into the driverless mode. The policies of “Big-driven” warped consumer incentives have left a mound of economic carnage, consisting of failed green technology companies, inefficient health care delivery systems, a crippled bullet train project, coal company bankruptcies and closures, high gasoline prices, a housing crash, regulatory and tax code complexity, business bankruptcies, to name a few. Need more concrete consequences of too much BigGuvLuv? How do you like your low-carbon, dimwit light bulbs and low flush toilets?

With driverless vehicles, I detailed some serious challenges ahead for the logistics and actual use of them in my November 2015 Editor’s Edge column. So we must forcefully and loudly ask experts like Klein, “Why do you need to levy a 180% tax on new cars? Why higher parking fees? Why vehicle ownership limits? Why does the transition to driverless vehicles need negative behavioral incentives? Why don’t you make that selfie-driven, bubble-tushed Google iCar as appealing as my precious iPhone?”

Anyone who accurately comprehends our global economy and its slow 21st Century slow growth should conclude that most challenges and inequalities stem from distortions wrought by the Biggies: Guv, Biz, Greens, Labors and Hollywood. The more these institutions regulate, lobby, mandate, protest, manipulate and interfere with the free market, the more they stymie the innovation, choices and prosperity made possible by liberty based on laws and equality of opportunity.

Are we ready to have our every move regulated and tracked by “Big Car?”

To the fervent advocates and acolytes of driverless vehicles, the driving public must say, “We’ll choose it if we want it, if that day finally comes.”

For now, I’ll still look forward one day getting my fun car, a V-8 Challenger or Mustang — to be pleasurably driven by me.

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