Ayn Rand, for all her quirks, had some solid things to say. One of these was that civilization exists — or declines — in proportion to privacy. The less privacy you’ve got, the more uncivilized the society in which you live.
Which is why this business of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology is so extremely uncivilized. It is meant to make sure you are never alone on the road — even if you are the only car on the road.
The concept emulates the bee hive. Each bee is an integral part of a collective and no action taken by any individual bee is unknown to the other bees, who all exist and operate in lockstep.
Your V2V-equipped car (several new GM vehicles and all Teslas already have the technology) will “stream information” to the other V2V-equipped cars, so that each knows where the others are in relation to itself, their relative speed and direction.
The “queen” will know, too.
The government queen — because she likes to know where we are and what we are up to. And the insurance queen — for the same reasons. Both will use this information to keep track of us — and to charge us.
Elon Musk is a third queen.
He likes to keep up with what you’re up to, too. All Teslas “stream” data back to the Teslian hive. The cars are literally tethered — electronically — to the great collective. The data pack includes how fast you drive, how long you drive — even possibly what you talk about inside the car. Teslas — and almost all new cars, period — have microphones built in, as part of the “concierge” system (e.g., GM’s OnStar and similar systems) or for the voice command systems that almost all new cars either have or offer.
Of course, there’s no Off switch.
In addition to monitoring us — and dunning us for such things as ignoring arbitrary speed limits and stupid no U-Turn/right-on-red/HOV lane restrictions — V2V is the means by which things like congestion pricing — where you are dunned for using certain roads at certain times — and tax-by-mile (which is the tax intended to replace motor fuels taxes) will be imposed.
That word is italicized for a reason, because — as always — V2V will not be optional. If it were, no worries. The few who wanted Uncle and the insurance mafia (and Elon) along for the ride could open their passenger door — so to speak — and invite them in and the rest of us could slam the damned thing shut, hit the lock button and stomp on the gas — leaving Uncle, the insurance mafia and Elon rapidly receding the distance.
Naturally, this cannot be allowed.
NHTSA — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is the entity that somehow has acquired the power to jab us in the back with bayonets “for our safety” — has been scratching itself raw like an eczema-infested hound to impose mandatory V2V for every new car, not just those sold by GM and Elon and a few other hive-masters.
Because good ideas can’t be left up to us to say yes to.
NHSTA argues that V2V will reduce — possibly, eliminate — such things as accidents which occur when one car runs a red light and runs into another car. The V2V-equipped car entering the intersection would know about the other V2V-equipped car about to run the light — and would automatically brake itself to avoid the crash. More likely, the V2V equipped car on the verge of traducing the red would know its driver was in error — and stop his car automatically.
This is the sort of technocratic wet nursing that has come to define our age.
It goes without saying — or should — that most of the problems V2V is supposed to be the solution for could be solved without V2V. Without taking an obsidian dagger to what’s left of our privacy.
By expecting more attentive and better-skilled drivers.
But that would require the active encouragement of driving — the exercise of initiative in particular, which is the opposite of mindless rule-following — and thus runs counter to the technocratic wet nurse capo regime of our age.
But there is good — if probably temporary — news.
Trump has yanked NHTSA’s chain on this V2V business — which had been on the fast-track under Obama and was certain of passage into federal edict under his presumed successor, who didn’t quite make it to actual successor.
Still, the technocratic kudzu — the necessary precursors — are already in your new car, probably. In particular, wireless communication (send and receive) technology. In-car Wi-Fi. You can access the Net — and the Net can access you.
Also, most new cars already have or offer driver-usurpation “safety” technologies such as automated braking and steering/lane keep “assist” — with more to come and as standard rather than optional equipment.
The car companies are pushing it aggressively — and too many of us are accepting it passively.
If more of us would resent it — and refuse to have anything to do with it — we might get some of our privacy back.
And things would become more civilized, rather than less so.