THE FUTURE OF THE AUTOMOBILE: AUTONOMOUS DRIVE INTO THE UNKNOWN
Ever since the hotshot Phaeton stole the sun chariot from his father Helios in a fit of hubris and thus caused the first traffic accident known to the collective memory of mankind, then with no less than catastrophic consequences for the entire universe, man has dreamed of safe mobility.
By Strigalt von Entf*
Now, on the threshold of the fulfilment of this dream, we should allow ourselves a moment of hesitation to ask ourselves what we are giving up for this: our self-determination, our claim to rule, our autonomy. For tens of thousands of years, Homo sapiens gained a position on this planet characterised by almost complete creative power: no more predators, diseases and environmental influences are defied, and even the laws of physics are increasingly being undermined. Man determined his own destiny – until now.
Viktor Vaznetsov's "Flying Carpet", captured on canvas, made it seem as simple as it was fairytale: a means of transport that takes you to your desired destination by magic. Far from it, whoever was under the misconception that the information technology prodigy artificial intelligence could now work this magic just as easily. Not at all, as even professional visionary and utopian Elon Musk has had to grudgingly admit. However, the crucial question is not whether or when the binary chauffeur will take the reins from our hands. Rather, we, dear readers, must ask ourselves who will pull the strings behind the artificially intelligent puppet that will henceforth be master of our travels. As is so often the case, the answer lies in the ranks of the big IT companies that will soon want to indoctrinate our driving behaviour in addition to our online behaviour. Will the Amazon car really take the fastest route to its destination, or will it prefer the longer parallel road because there is a more frequent presence of more lucrative product billboards there? Does the Google car want to drive me every week to the hairdresser to whom I once gave a 4-star rating as thanks for a successful haircut?
However, the crucial question is not whether or when the binary chauffeur will take the reins from our hands. Rather, we, dear readers, must ask ourselves who will pull the strings behind the artificially intelligent puppet that will henceforth be master of our travels. As is so often the case, the answer lies in the ranks of the big IT companies that will soon want to indoctrinate our driving behaviour in addition to our online behaviour.
All these are still tolerable trifles compared to the odysseys that make Odysseus' way home to Ithaca seem like a Corpus Christi procession, when bored, pimply teenagers crack the security systems of the autonomous vehicles on a whim, as if they were Facebook's customer databases or the FBI's central computer. Hours of wandering around roundabouts, filling up at the most expensive petrol pumps in town, or much worse: instead of being taken peacefully to the office, the barbaric hackers send me straight to my mother-in-law shortly after her gall bladder operation.
Admittedly, total digital control also has its advantages. Bank robbery as we know it from films and television is a thing of the past. Criminals would hardly be able to disappear unnoticed with the autonomous getaway vehicle, the vehicles would hardly be persuaded to exceed the maximum permitted speed limit in built-up areas or to disregard a right of way, let alone a red light. The seemingly never-ending, torturous sequels to "Fast and the Furious" would also come to an end. But are we willing to sacrifice our freedom for a life without Vin Diesel? Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
The seemingly never-ending, torturous sequels to "Fast and the Furious" would also come to an end. But are we willing to sacrifice our freedom for a life without Vin Diesel?
Furthermore, an important ceremony would also be cruelly slaughtered on the sacrificial table of the god of technology: The important initiation ritual of many young people who, with the acquisition of their driving licence, may now finally belong to the circle of adults. A big, important, life-shaping step: "Look, mother, look father, I can now walk, talk and move far away by the power of my arms and legs. I am flying!" What's the point if the car now does it all by itself. Generations of TomTom illiterates won't even be able to operate a navigation device.
Maybe I'm just a romantic guided by memories of the lovely breeze through the retrofitted sunroof of my first Fiat 130 Coupé, but I mean, you don't always have to optimise away everything that's beautiful and good until there's nothing left of what's actually human. Sometimes what we remember is simply the journey and not the destination. And the path is all the more beautiful the more we can participate in it, help shape it and not just passively shadow it.
Your Strigalt von Entf
*Our "Feuill-IT-ong" format is created in collaboration with the two freelance writers Tobias Lauterbach und Daniel Al-Kabbani who occasionally contribute to the satire platform "Der Postillon". Under the pseudonym Strigalt von Entf, they report on current events from the world of technology – always with a wink! ;-)