Driverless Cars Will Make the Next Pandemic Crackdown Complete
As we anticipate a reprieve from coronavirus and maybe a corresponding end to the various lockdowns, we should expect worse from our governments in the future. In the next pandemic (and there will be more pandemics), governments may have at least one more weapon to use against us that will make their crackdowns complete.
The production of driverless cars remains in its infancy, but if those cars ever become common, the government will have no problem locking us down on the slightest pretext. Driverless cars have no steering wheels and depend upon pre-programmed GPS coordinates to guide them (and us) to our destinations. Aside from entering a destination at the start of a trip, a driver has no way to direct the car.
The implications for the next pandemic are profound. This time, government has extended its reach tremendously. State governments declare that thousands of businesses are "non-essential" and order their closure. Governors and mayors solicit snitches and deploy state officials to help enforce the lockdown. Even many activities conducted in isolation outside or in parking lots are now banned. In many places, we are prohibited from leaving our homes except in rare circumstances. The sale of harmless items, like seeds and gardening supplies, is banned in certain states. Governors continue to extend the lockdowns despite a reduction in new cases.
Despite this enforcement, some businesses have managed to retain a measure of productivity. People have continued to travel. Those most affected have even managed to engage in mass protests at various state capitols. Even as the lockdowns have been deepened and lengthened, they have begun to collapse in practice due to widespread violations. If the economy somehow survives, it may very well be due to the unenforceability of the lockdowns.
We will not have the same luxury next time. When future governors create a list of "non-essential" businesses, those businesses will be instantly unreachable by vehicle. Your car's GPS system will not accept an address for any business on the banned list. You will have no way to make your car go to those places. If you are the owner or employee of a "non-essential" business, your car's GPS might not work at all for you. There will be no one with whom to argue. Protests will not matter. There will be little possibility of evading the rules.
Police will not have to visit churches. No cars will go to a church.
Customer limits for permitted stores will be easier to enforce, as the GPS system will not program more than a limited number of cars for those destinations.
Those who attempt to program their cars for random locations in an attempt to skirt the lockdown orders will be thwarted by mileage limitations. They will be barred from accessing their vehicles' GPS once they exceed those limitations. The mileage limitation will probably be no greater than one round trip to your local food market per week. If you happen to take that trip when the shelves are empty, you will be out of luck.
Vehicles will not take protesters to state capitols, city hall, or other common places. Protests will be virtually impossible. Your vehicle will be your jailer. "Divide and conquer" will take on new meaning. You will never long for your old steering wheel as much as you will then.
Today, we are locked down by orders of governors acting without approval of courts or legislatures. Tomorrow, those same orders will be accompanied by a few keystrokes from computer programmers working for the tech giants. Your car will obey the programmers. None of it will be debatable or require the vote of the people. You will have no input into the forces that immobilize your car.
The GPS programmers might even decide that legislators need not reach the capitol, because legislative review will be "non-essential."
Governments need not even pass a new law to make any of this possible. It is simply a matter of more people buying driverless cars and government bureaucrats connecting different databases to each other. There will be no opportunity for voters to decide if any of this scenario is a good idea.
This pandemic has allowed the statists to explore the vast possibilities for shutdown and control. They have tested the limits and occasionally stepped back in the face of opposition. They have had to walk back their death count totals. They have occasionally reduced their list of "non-essential businesses." They have had to admit to stockpiling ventilators in warehouses. They have given us permission to visit and care for elderly relatives. They have let some violators off with mere warnings. But they will not need to be so flexible next time. Telling a nameless programmer to "flip a switch" that will block the "non-essentials" from most travel possibilities is much easier than mobilizing thousands of police against their formerly law-abiding neighbors.
This scenario is not inevitable. It depends on whether enough of us blindly accept the proposition that self-driving cars are "the future." If we do, those cars will probably be used against us even before the next pandemic. There are many scenarios that will arise to justify lockdowns and other experimentation with the new driverless technology. They are already eyeing "climate change" as the next excuse.
When driverless technology becomes more widespread, we will see the perfect storm. Once we surrender our steering wheels, we will be at their mercy.
Image: Grendelkhan via Wikimedia Commons.