America is slowing down. How long before it stops entirely?
A reader who is a commercial driver wrote to tell me about how his work vehicle is monitored and controlled via the safety tech that is coming soon to your garage and may already be there, just waiting to be fully enabled.
His work van “fusses” at him for” hard cornering, idling too long, hard acceleration and hard braking.” And — of course — for not wearing his seatbelt, even for a moment.
It does more than “fuss” at him.
It narcs him out to his employer for accelerating or braking or cornering in a manner considered by the onboard nanny to be too “hard” for its tastes. Which means, paralytically hyper cautious. Imagine a paranoid 95-year-old with trifocals, encoded and embedded in your vehicle.
My reader describes “weekly beratings” by the fleet manager of his company about drivers’ “scores” — which are calculated based upon the driver’s mindless adherence to every traffic law and the onboard nanny’s programming parameters regarding the quickness of his vehicle’s movements.
Or rather, their lack.
The slower, the better — ipso facto.
And so, the drivers do. Slow down. What choice do they have? The onboard granny nanny is the mobile equivalent of the cube farm Human Resources frau who will have your job if her always-cocked ear should hear an off-color comment or even an innocent malaprop — the malaprop defined by the triggered aggrieved. One must walk on eggshells at work — and drive as though there was an egg under the accelerator (and brake) pedal while working.
For the same reason.
My correspondent explains: “I used to drive with the flow of traffic” (which of course means he was “speeding,” since everyone, just about, drives at least a couple of miles-per-hour faster than the invariably ridiculous and always arbitrary speed limit) “ . . . But now have to be the asshole going too slow for conditions. I also now have to turn into parking lots, etc., at the speed of” (here it comes) “a 95-year-old Florida” retiree — which means stopping in the road before turning off the road, among other things.
“I feel my safety (the real thing) is in danger despite this being sold as safety equipment,” he adds. “I am in danger of being rear-ended now” — as well as an early death from the soul-crushing misery of it; he might have added.
“You should warn others that a ‘work vehicle’ may now be limited” — because closely monitored by the GPS Granny Nanny — “and the driver neutered to drive like a robot.”
Indeed. A very slow robot.
You may have seen such vehicles — emblazoned with placards proudly touting that “safety is my priority” and that the vehicle’s speed (and other such) are being monitored.
Note the resignation and defeat on the face of the meatsack behind the wheel.
“Driving was one of the reasons I loved my job,” my reader writes. “I’ve always had an affinity towards driving. I still own a 1990 Miata (supercharged) that I’ve had for 18 years. I’ve been ‘driving’ since I had my first bicycle. I loved going everywhere and enjoying the ride in between. The joy of driving has been taken away from me. I drive 5k miles per month on average, and the last 5k have been miserable. Watching the speedo like a hawk is akin to reading text messages constantly. The naturalness of driving has been subverted to trying to not get in trouble. My eyes are less on the road now than they were when looking far out ahead for the cop sitting on the side of the road — because the cop is now riding shotgun with me.”
My reader concludes with something insightful:
“I feel this is being forced on us to make our driving behavior so intolerable to others that they acquiesce to future demands for self-driving vehicles.”
Create a problem, then offer the solution. A generation of idiot-proofing cars has created a pool of idiot drivers — the (manufactured) Problem.
Solution? Take the driver out of the equation — on the presumption of everyone being an idiot. Then make the now-automated vehicles — not just the commercial ones, yours and mine, too — drive idiotically.
Trifocals and Depends for all!
This will, of course, create new Problems — including a slow-motion society (and economy) in which less and less gets done and what does get done gets done torturously. There is a reason why Vodka was the national beverage of the old Soviet Union and partaken of regularly.
It took the edge off.
All of this is due to the Safety Cult, which obsesses about “risk” in the same way that ‘50s McCarthyism obsessed about communism, with an interesting correlation: Risk-obsession will have the same effect as formal communism. We will no longer control anything but rather be controlled — in the interests of Our Safety rather than the Proletariat.
But the dictatorship feels pretty much the same.