Can We Apply The “No Asshole” Rule to The Road?

I’m an even-keeled guy.  I’ve learned through years of high-pressure situations to think twice, be empathetic, not over-react, etc…  Don’t get me wrong, I can go off with the best of them, but I’m also quick to apologize and try to learn from my own responses.

None of this applies to driving.  In my world-view, every single driver outside of the vehicle in which I reside is basically an internet troll attempting to ruin my day.  The sheer magnitude of the rampant stupidity I see is surpassed only by the arrogance of those self-same drivers who are convinced that they are “doing it right.”  ‘Oh, you don’t want to use this exit-only lane that’s a mile long to scoot in front of all the cars to your left?  You’re an idiot.’  I suspect my prisoner’s dilemma diatribe would fall on deaf ears, particularly since they’ll be a mile in front of me actually creating the traffic jam as they merge back into traffic from their departing lane.

We are human, and we make truly poor decisions.  Someone cleverer than I can probably connect how our post-savannah adaptations cause us to make these decisions which made a ton of sense while jogging through a field and are now truly execrable at 65 (who are we kidding, 80) MPH.  My simple and heartfelt response to that explanation would echo Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive – making the same face – “I don’t care.”

We can’t see the impact that our small decisions make on the broader network, in this case of roads.  We cut someone off, they over-correct and slow down, BOOM – accordion time.  You know what *can* see – and predict – the result of those actions?  Learning Models.  AI.  They can also smooth them out, and of course avoid them altogether.

I don’t want to get hung up on the mechanics of how we’re going to get there – it will be fraught, people will raise legitimate concerns around safety, ethics, freedom, and we will need to address all of them and then some.  A very good friend of mine who is a savvy technologist called me a fascist for taking the position I’m attempting to layout here, and that caught my attention.  If I say I believe that humans should be out of the decision-making processes in driving, am I getting into some vehicular version of the 2nd amendment?  Is freedom to drive an inalienable right?

We (the royal “we” here, I of course would never do any of this) drive drunk, distracted, while tweet-chatting, frustrated, tired, angry.  We drive as teenagers, we drive fast and slow, we miss exits and try not to miss them at the last second.  We become incandescent with rage at someone who we are certain has planned the exact moment of their lane-change to ruin our entire fucking day.

We make terrible decisions for terrible reasons, and we can’t possibly understand the impact those decisions have outside of the cubic meter of space we control.  We should stop doing that.  I envision a world where the bulk of the decisions made are done so to optimize traffic and safety.  To take better advantage of our existing infrastructure and get more people getting where they need to go faster and more safely.  To ensure that emergency vehicles can get where they need to go seamlessly, and reduce the need for those emergency vehicles to spend time on traffic accidents.  Ultimately I see no need for humans to have any control whatsoever – but some progression is almost certainly called for to get to that point.

Let’s put the assholes in the back seat where they belong.  When we drive, we are all assholes.

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