Remember the good ol’ days of the Affordable Care Act? Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass the bill to learn what was in it? Yeah, that was great, wasn’t it? Good times.
Well, hold on to your seatbelts, sports fans. Biden’s infrastructure bill promises to be an even bigger piñata filled with objects usually found in your cat’s litterbox. According to an op-ed by former Georgia Representative Bob Barr, the package contains a well-hidden item: kill switches in cars.
Ostensibly, the device, whatever it is, will passively monitor the driver for indications of impaired operation and turn the car off if it decides there is a problem. If that isn’t enough overreach for you, get a load of this: The system can be accessed by third parties. That includes law enforcement, whatever government agency or company that thinks it has a right to monitor your activity, or your friendly neighborhood hacker who just wants to cause a little mayhem or extort you for as much cryptocurrency they can get you to cough up. Or a foreign power that decides it would be a good time to put the screws to American transportation. Given the success of the recent spam attack on the FBI’s email servers, I’d say an average mid-sized compact doesn’t stand a chance. The government can’t even keep itself safe from a cyberterrorism, let alone your car. For that matter, how many times have you had to repeat yourself because Siri gave you every answer except the one you were looking for? I turned it off for that reason alone. Well, that and the thing gives me the creeps.
So the system is designed to shut down your car if you are allegedly drunk, drugged, or drowsy. But will it decide you are impaired if you check both ways too many times before pulling into traffic? Possibly. Will it turn off the engine if you are in the middle a four-lane freeway and swerve to miss an impending wreck or vehicle debris? Maybe. What about a desolate country road where you try to avoid the corpse of a skunk? It might. Suppose you are stopped at a red light at the end of long day and close your eyes and lean back during rush hour? Will the system think you have passed out? Perhaps. Will the it suddenly decide it needs a restart or experience an error as you drive through a sketchy part of town? In that case I suppose you call your friends for a lift and if they can’t come, you tell them to watch for you on the evening news. What about the criteria the system will use or how the algorithm will interpret your behavior? How often during a given trip will you be at risk for your car grinding to a halt allegedly for your own protection? How many times can you miss potholes before the system decides you’re drunk and it’s time to call a cab? And once it shuts down, how do you start the car again?
As Barr points out, there isn’t much information on any of that, which makes the potential problems with this issue Legion. (And yes, that is a reference to Mark 5:9.) I suppose we’ll all know five years from now when the mandate kicks in. So hang on to your current ride for as long as you can. Or at least until you are ordered to buy an electric car or line up for public transportation. Who knows? By then only the patricians may be able to afford cars, so I guess I’ll see you at the bus stop.
To add insult to difficulty, the kill switch is the automotive equivalent of the vid screens in 1984, which monitored the citizens of Oceania for signs of anti-party behavior or perceived indolence. Except Winston Smith knew that for at least part of the time he was not being spied on, although he did not know when. In the case of the kill switch, the system will be keeping tabs on you the entire time you are driving, which means you had better fastidiously mind your P’s & Q’s on the road. You could end up waiting for a tow while your social credit score drops like a rock and your insurance premiums skyrocket.
How did something like this end up in the spending package? More than likely it has been festering on someone in Washington’s to-do list for years now. As a former beltway insider once told me, Democrats (and probably more than a few Republicans) keep their pet projects close at hand, just waiting for the opportunity to shoe-horn them into a bill. And keep in mind that the administration is probably not doing this because it needs to do it, but because it can. The powers that be, political and industrial, have school-girl crushes on China and a bad case of authority-envy, and this is yet another splendid way to remind us plebes just who is in charge.
In short order, it will be the government, not Greyhound, saying: “Leave the driving to us.”