Regarding autonomous vehicle testing in Springfield

Dear Editor,

I winced to read that Springfield is sprinting to the front of the line for the testing of autonomous vehicles in Vermont. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association website comes straight out of the gate, as all proponents of AVs seem to, with a barrage of vague bullet points touting their possible benefits. As it turns out, AVs may offer several benefits to society, such as safe drunk driving. I think the real impetus, though, is found in the GHSA’s plea to Vermonters: “Let’s not fall behind.”

I think we ought to fall behind. The Harvard Business Review predicts that half a million truck driving jobs will be lost nationally in the coming decade to automated semi trucks, and I’m sure trains and ships will also be fully automated by then. Transportation is just one sector – human relevance is confronted nearly across the board. Who has a plan for the economic obsolescence of human labor within a couple of decades? I suspect this anxiety drives the increasingly audible debate about Universal Basic Income.

Are the technologists right? Will AI, AVs, and UBI deliver unto us a “post-scarcity” acronym world, where life – like language – is easier? I picture most of us leisurely collecting our UBI, and if we’re clever, investing a portion in crowd-ownership of various automated systems from which we might collect dividends. On top of this, there will surely sit a developer and licensor class that decides which technologies we need.

Actually, I’m skeptical. I anticipate that insurance companies will soon incentivize AVs if they are statistically safer, making it relatively more expensive to drive Old-Timey Cars. Eventually, following the logic of AV proponents, OTCs could be made illegal. Then speed limits could be safely raised, and traffic lights eliminated. If you’re a chicken trying to cross the road, you’ll be wise to download Google Crossroads, which will be an innovative technology leveraging the power of AI to safely channel pedestrian intent. “Google Crossroads –Your Need, Our Choice.”

It’s only fair that I now propose my own alternate vision for our common future. I haven’t worked out all the details, but it begins with the image of a line of AVs sailing gracefully over Comtu Falls, and bobbing around the bend, destined for a reunion of relatives in the Sea of Imagined Utility. And we’ll also use leaves for money.


Ole Bye

North Springfield, Vt.

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