Quote of the week

Car and Driver, in its last two issues, has offered a Most Wanted list of “enemies of automotive culture,” in John Pearley Huffman’s words. One of the offenders is Google, for pushing self-driving cars:

There’s a certain phlegmatic beauty to the idea: issue a few voice commands and your vehicle safely and efficiently whisks you off to your destination. Meanwhile, you can call up this month’s Car and Algorithm on your tablet and read the latest comparison test of floating decimal points. Driving isn’t a chore crying out to be automated: it’s the greatest spiritual transformation of the last 200 years.

I’m not entirely sure about that whole “spiritual” thing, but despite the ginormous (and growing) expense, cars have something of value to contribute to the culture, as P. J. O’Rourke once noted:

Cars confer upon us the ultimate and most important of human freedoms. We can leave.

You could argue that you can leave just as well in the self-driving car, and maybe you can, but I’m just paranoid enough to think Google will give The Authorities a back door and the ability to override your instructions.


  1. Jeffro »

    1 February 2013 · 4:03 pm

    Totally agree, except for the paranoid part. Experience has shown the wisdom of that possibility.

  2. fillyjonk »

    1 February 2013 · 4:04 pm

    On the other hand, a car that drives itself would be unlikely to be texting as it drove. (I was nearly in an accident YET AGAIN with some idiot who was texting, and who strayed over the center line on one of our none-to-wide local streets.)

  3. XRay »

    1 February 2013 · 9:57 pm

    Look, my feeling is, is that Google is/will be ultimately evil. As in their business model is predicated on sameness. They make it attractive, of course. But individualism, or individual freedom, is not in their world view, nor their business model.

  4. Francis W. Porretto »

    2 February 2013 · 3:53 am

    Barry Bruce-Briggs, author of The War Against The Automobile, observed long ago that the personal auto is “an essentially anarchic device.” Scary word, “anarchy:” it means freedom. For which reason governments everywhere are hostile to the auto and will forever remain so, regardless of how lavishly their “transportation departments” might be funded. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the “self-driving car,” by the time it earns its registration, will have, not merely a “back door,” but a host of front-door reporting features that 1) allow the State to know where it, and you, have been at any given moment, and 2) tax the bejeezus out of you on any pretext or none!

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